You belong among the wildflowers/you belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours/You belong somewhere you feel free
Run away, find you a lover/Go away, somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other/who compares with you.
-lyrics from the Tom Petty song Wildflowers
With the passing of Petty, and hearing local legend Steve Poltz recently sing that on the radio, I couldn’t help thinking of it while watching this movie. Especially since it felt like some of the lyrics could be applied to high school senior Erica. She’s played by Zoey Deutch, the talented daughter of Lea Thompson, and star of Why Him? and Before I Fall. She’s a promiscuous girl with serious daddy issues. Mostly, that her daddy is in the pokey. She’s trying to raise his bail money, and she has an interesting way of doing it. She performs sex acts on adults, that her friends film. Then she extorts money out of them. Deutch has the perfect blend of angst and vulnerability, and she’s terrific in this part.
The premise is interesting, but the tone is all wrong. Sometimes they’re discussing serious issues and other times they’re going for cheap laughs. At least most of the times their jokes land. That makes for a mostly entertaining picture, although the subject matter might turn off many viewers. I felt that they shouldn’t have made her character so willing to do things with every guy she meets. It would’ve been much more interesting (and realistic), if she just stuck to the task at hand (no pun intended).
As great as Deutch is, I was thrilled to see Kathryn Hahn playing her mom. She’s usually the best thing in every movie she’s in. Although the two characters in this feel like the mother and daughter in The Florida Project, 10 years later.
Laurie (Hahn) is dating a man who, in unrealistic scenario, is going to let his son Luke (Joey Morgan) move in with them after picking him up from a drug rehab facility. He’s also mentally unstable. As bad a mother as she is, you have to think she’d be against this whole set up. Especially after their first incident at a restaurant goes south fast (no pun intended).
The narrative settles into a nice groove when we find out some of the reasons Luke is so anxiety-ridden. That has to do with him being molested by a teacher (Adam Scott). It just happens to be a teacher Erica had been eyeballing at the local bowling alley.
Aside from many convenient coincidences, it’s a shame the narrative is so messy. It’s a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to say, and that’s a shame; because so much of it is entertaining.
The director and co-writer is Max Winkler (son of Henry). He’s been involved in some big TV shows, which were never as disjointed as this is. Often times, it felt as if he was just trying to write material to shock us. It reminds me of Howard Stern. Most of what he says is garbage, and sometimes shocking. Yet there’s entertainment value in some of it, too. I just wish he would’ve dove into this material and fleshed out some of these characters better.
One of the writers, Matt Spicer (who gave us the entertaining Ingrid Goes West a few months ago), should’ve made this feel a bit more realistic. You also wonder how appropriate it is to try and mine laughs from such serious subjects.
I wanted this movie to be more like Hard Candy (Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson). Dark humor mixed with seriousness.
And in the 3rd act when it becomes a road picture, you’re thinking Bonnie & Clyde, and wondering what these filmmakers were even thinking. Yet you hear lines like: “Do you even know anybody in Mexico?”
“Uh, well, we have this cleaning lady that comes once a week.”
That’s one of about 20 very funny scenes. It just all doesn’t add up to much.
2 ½ stars out of 5.