EMBRACEABLE YOU: A gearhead takes an intimacy break in 'Bellflower.'

COVERED WITH Sundance laurels as it is, Bellflower seems only middling. It's in the Harmony Korine vein of films about suburban wastrels, hooking up, drinking beer, breaking up and angrily throwing things into the storm drains of the namesake city in the L.A. Basin. Woodrow (director/mechanic Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are gearheads with a big budget for chrome and no visible means of support.

They are two Wisconsin transplants to Southern California, and they haven't lost their downiness yet. (Woodrow still wears sweater vests.) Both dream of emulating the post-apocalyptic road ragers from 1982's Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. (Bellflower's epigraph comes from a saying by that hockey-masked villain the Lord Humongous.)

No-good, two-timing women interfere with this boyish dream. But after a serious brain-damaging motorcycle accident, the film goes sideways into Lynchian fever dreams where you can't tell actual revenge from fantasies of burning old girlfriends beyond recognition.

Bellflower has a unique look, thanks to a Skunk-Worked camera wrought by Glodell that created the goldenrod-colored visuals, making blonde hair glow like electric fire, or giving the landscapes the hue of dead weeds in a liquor store parking lot. The smeary backgrounds and grease-halos seem mostly like an homage to the primitive video of julien donkey-boy (1999), with splattered motor oil on the lens as part of the atmosphere.

Take your gaze away from the photography, and you're left with one question: How is Bellflower different from most power fantasies for young guys? It is like watching Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket, another movie that was mostly all promise of something better to come. If Glodell gets someone else to write for him, someone who can differentiate his many characters and add some kind of wit, he might be worthy of the kind of praise that's getting ladled on him.

Bellflower isn't aimlessly made, even if it's about aimless people. There's creativity here in the dialogue of these tunnel-visioned no-hopers, as in this blessing over a gift of birthday fruitcake: "I figure if I got you fruitcake now, then I can go get you a real present at Christmas, when we'll probably know each other better."


R; 106 min.

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