Head to the movie theater this month and you’ll find films like A Wrinkle in Time and Ready Player One. But dig a little bit deeper, past the big blockbusters, and you’ll find a film that speaks to the rage you feel every time you read another actress’s #MeToo story — Flower.
The movie, from director Max Winkler and starring Before I Fall actress Zoey Deutch, centers around three teens bent on taking down sexual predators. If it sounds like the perfect movie for our time — it is.
Made for half a million dollars and shot in just 15.5 days in 2017 — in blistering, 110-degree heat in Lancaster, California, no less — Flower captures a kind of rage all too familiar in today’s world. The teens in the film might not handle things in the best way (or in a legal way) but their outrage is relatable.
HG chatted with Winkler and Deutch about making Flower, and what they hope viewers will take away. Read on for the enlightening conversation.
HelloGiggles: What inspired you to make Flower?
Max Winkler: What inspired this film was an original script by someone named Alex McAulay that I read and immediately identified as something that reminded me of the pastiche of those great ’80s teen movies, [like] Risky Business, Over the Edge, or Ferris Bueller or the Corey Haim and Corey Feldman movies.
But what I liked about this was that it was not a male lead — it was a girl at the lead, taking control of her own destiny. She wasn’t an object of desire. It was an active woman, 17 year old, doing things on her own terms — what she wanted, when she wanted. With good intentions, even if, at times, what she was doing might not be morally correct.
HG: Why was it important for you, as a male filmmaker, to bring to life a female character like this?
MW: I’d just never seen it before, and I didn’t want to sit and wait for someone else to do it. It felt like she was one part Travis Bickle, one part Jim Stark from Rebel Without a Cause. I think as much as we can put ourselves in other people’s narratives, the better, and I think good things come from it if you can do it respectfully and honor it.
For me, the best way to do it was to hire as many women as possible to work on the crew, from our cinematographer, production designer, line producer, on-set writer/producer, editor, wardrobe — all that stuff, just to be held accountable.
And also in the woman I hired to act in the movie, like Zoey, who was my partner in this through and through. She was 20 when we made this, which is way closer to being a 17 year old girl than I’ve ever gotten to be. I relied on Zoey to keep me honest and accountable, as well as all the other women on the film, if I was ever doing something that ever felt like it was too much of a male gaze-y type thing, or a white, cis male writing a woman or girl in the wrong way.
Zoey would correct me and tell me, “This is how I would say it, this is how I should say it. This isn’t what I would wear, this is what I would wear.” Empowering those people, I think, is what helped make the movie feel authentic.
HG: Why did you decide to cast Zoey as your lead?
MW: Zoey was making a movie in Canada and sent in a self-tape; she was shooting nights, and I think deliriously tired. She sent in a self-tape, she was eating potato chips. The producers called me and said, “You need to watch this immediately,” because we’d read hundreds of girls and nothing felt right.
I really believed it was my fault in the writing of it. I didn’t fully believe the movie could be a movie until I saw Zoey’s take. There were really talented people reading for it, but no one was able to walk the line between the intense bravado, false bravado, and emotional vulnerability and complexity the way this character had to be pulled off, and Zoey did it perfectly. She’s as good in the movie as she was in her first tape. There was no way I was making the movie without her.
HG: So Zoey, what was it like for you to bring this character to life?
Zoey Deutch: My initial thoughts were that I was excited that they were going to let a movie get made with a central character who is a girl, who is getting to do this kind of stuff and talk like that. I definitely feel like I’ve been on the sidelines at times, watching all my male actor friends get to play parts like this, and it was a dream role. I think the character felt very, I don’t use the word strong, she felt very complicated and frustrating. She feels so frustrating to me, and frustrated, and that’s relatable to me.
I remember feeling as a teenager very frustrated, and being very frustrating to people, and she’s just looking for some semblance of control. And at 17, all the changes that are taking place and the strange hormones running through your body, I think that all of Erica’s bad behavior comes from the fact that she feels very out of control, which desperately scares her. All of that is exciting and challenging and fun to play.
HG: How do you feel about releasing your film in the midst of the #MeToo, Time’s Up, and teen-led gun control movements?
ZD: We made this movie before any of the stories broke, but it’s not a secret that this is a business that has had a very unequal power struggle, and women have been taken advantage of and preyed upon since its inception.
I think in a lot of ways, whether or not this is the politically correct to say this, but [the film] is a wish fulfillment of what would happen to strike back at men in power who have abused their position. I’m not saying that killing somebody who’s sexually assaulting women is okay or right, or what you should do, but these characters in this movie don’t necessarily handle it in a productive way, which of course is in contrast to the Time’s Up movement. But it’s supposed to feel like they want to do something — there’s a clear problem, and no one’s helping them.
HG: What do you hope people will take away from this film?
ZD: One element of the film that really speaks to me is that, where a lot of films about adolescence are geared towards being about the loss of innocence, this is about a young woman regaining her innocence and learning that there’s a real strength in vulnerability. I think there’s a really beautiful message in that.
Flower opens in Los Angeles and New York City on March 16th, and hits theaters nationwide on March 23rd.
This interview has been edited and condensed.