Zoey Deutch and Max Winkler talk ‘Flower’, Teen Vigilantes, Complicated Protagonists, and Collaborating With Women

Max Winkler’s “Flower” is one of those films you can’t quite shake after watching. It’s part teenage coming of age, part “take down a sexual predator” film. While watching “Flower” you’re unsure of the direction the film’s going to go, and that’s part of the magic of it. Now I’m getting ahead of myself, but if that doesn’t entice you, I don’t know what will.

The film follows Erica (Zoey Deutch) a clever teenager living in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley with her single mother (Kathryn Hahn). Erica is like most teenage girls; she spends time at the mall with her friends. Where they get their money for the items they buy, is a little less conventional.

With the help of her friends Kala (Dylan Gelula) and Claudine (Maya Eshet), Erica entraps scummy cops and extorts them, saving up thousands of dollars. When her mother’s boyfriend’s son Luke (Joey Morgan) moves in with them, Erica’s life is thrown through a loop. Luke reveals a dark secret from his past, catalyzing Erica and her friends to expose a high school teacher (Adam Scott), dubbing themselves “vigilantes.” “Flower” deftly mixes dark comedy and teen shenanigans in ways unseen in films today.

We got a chance to speak to Zoey Deutch and Director/Writer Max Winkler about “Flower,” at the ultra-hip, The Spare Room in Hollywood, and let’s just say everything about the place was perfect for the promotion of “Flower,” hell, it even had a bowling alley, which is a heavily featured set piece in the film. Sitting down with Deutch and Winkler, it was easy to see why she was cast as the firecracker that is teenage vigilante Erica. Deutch radiated with charisma and easygoing charm of a woman who knew exactly who her character was, while Winkler was confident in his creation of a vulnerable and complex woman, unable to be pinned down as the stereotypical teen.

The opening of the film exposes us to Erica’s cunning nature. Immediately after going down on a cop, she extorts him for cash with her two best friends. While the scene is interesting, Winkler commented that the creation of Erica and his take on her teenage behavior was never “about her sexuality, it was about her trying to get control of her life and pushing away any genuine intimate moment that comes” her way.

Deutch further cemented this with the comment that Erica is “morally ambiguous, fragile, complicated and frustrating at times.” Beneath her tough façade, Erica is a frustrating teen, frustrated with her predicament and her lack of control over her own life, so when she can control an element of someone else’s, in this case extorting a cop, she does it with delight.

On the surface, the title of the film “Flower” is hard to track through the film, other than close-up shots of flowers in the Valley. The script’s original author Alex McAulay titled it, and while Winkler never questioned the title, he has his own interpretation of it.

 

“Flowers look very delicate, but are extremely resilient and can make their way through any kind of season or change and last. Flowers have these roots underneath that are strong, and very different from their exterior, which I always imagined for Erica.”

What strikes me most interesting of the creation of Erica, was Winkler’s adamant need to collaborate with other women. He knew, like most women, “what Erica portrays is not actually who she is,” and thus brought on as many talented women to the crew to accurately portray the complicated protagonist, and took their ideas to make her a fully formed person, not just a character that inhabits our screen.

The creation of Luke, on the other hand, was more complex. Instead of using his words a crutch, as Erica does, Winkler commented it was harder to write Luke, as he speaks very little initially, however as the movie progresses its revealed he has this “wonderful fragile nature about him and this tenderness, you realize he doesn’t have to say a lot.“

Like Erica, who becomes an activist in her own regard when she sets out to expose and get revenge on an alleged child molester, Deutch is an activist herself. Overwhelmed with the desire to make change, Deutch decided to focus on one issue that means so much to her, which is reproductive health.

Working with Planned Parenthood, she recently spoke at Capital Hill in Sacramento on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and has spoken to legislators and assembly members. She commented while the light is always on her career path, “its neat to shine a light that’s bigger than me.” Winkler often helps Deutch compose her speeches.

On the timeliness of the film, Deutch said “Flower” was filmed before the exposing of Harvey Weinstein, the creation of the TimesUp Movement, and the MeToo Movement. “The Justice System has failed [to listen] to women and men and they had to take it into their own hands for so long and that story has always been relevant.” While she notes Erica and her friends don’t handle the situation the in ideal way, “they do their best.”

They’re vigilantes who might make bad decisions, as the tagline says, but they have only the best intentions. “Flower” is a wonderfully complex film that’s perfectly timed for our current climate, and elevates and goes beyond its identity as a teen movie. “Flower” comes out Nationwide today, and believe me, you don’t want to miss it.

 

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