Zoey Deutch and Max Winkler on the Essence of ‘Flower’

In the indie movie Flower, Zoey Deutch plays a teenage girl who has a rather eccentric look on life.

Deutch is Erica, a girl who feels it’s her duty to extort money from those she deems as abusing their power. Case in point, the film opens with Erica giving a cop a blow job and then blackmailing him for cash after her friends video the act.

Directed and co-written by Max Winkler, the story shifts when Erica befriends the son of her mother’s boyfriend, Luke (Joey Morgan), who suffers from severe depression and anxiety. It stems from the time in middle school when he accused a teacher, Will (Adam Scott), of molesting him, but it couldn’t be proven and therefore, no one believed Luke.

But Erica does, and she takes it upon herself to help Luke get even but in tracking down Will and exacting a plan for revenge, the film slips further down the rabbit hole. Flower does get dark but still maintains a sort of lighter touch, especially as Erica and Luke’s relationship blossoms.

At a recent press day for the film, Deutch described Erica as “a teen vigilante taking revenge on an alleged child molester. She’s morally ambiguous. She is fragile, complicated and, quite frankly, frustrating at times, which I think speaks honestly to being a teenager. I know, for myself, I was very frustrated and frustrating so I could relate to that element of her character.”

Winkler concurred but in framing Erica’s casual frankness about sex, Winkler said he knew two things: “It was never about this character’s sexuality, it was about this girl looking for some semblance of control. And pushing away any genuine, intimate moment that comes, which is something I did then and maybe still do now. I think real intimacy can sometimes be scary, and to allow yourself to be seen underneath this veneer of bravado.”

He added, “What Erica portrays isn’t exactly who she is. Deep down, I knew the best way I could do that would be hiring as many talented, powerful women to help on the crew. And taking their ideas. Probably the smartest thing I could do.”

The Flower cast is also incredibly unique, not your usual cast of beautiful teenagers you see onscreen. Winkler explained, “I didn’t want anyone to feel like actors.” Deutch laughed, “As I sit here in my Prada dress…” The director added, “But you didn’t look like that in the film. We agreed that [Erica] was not going to wear a lot of makeup and a lot of people would say no to that. Zoey did not wear makeup, did her own hair and just undo all of that. That’s what we wanted.”

As for the title, Winkler explained what it means. “The original writer, Alex McAulay, always called it Flower and I never really asked him why because I loved it so much. I’ve come to interpret in two ways. Flowers look very delicate but are actually extremely resilient and can make their way through any kind of season. And flowers have these roots that can grow underneath and are really strong and different from their exterior, which is how I imagine Erica.

He continued, “And also I think Zoey as Erica finally blooms and she becomes almost a kid again. Allows the weight on her back to be removed and regains her innocence.”

Deutch agreed and talked about her character’s complicated relationships with men. “She is somebody who suffers from a feeling of abandonment. She is not willing to feel pain and in turn not willing to feel love. Adam Scott’s character is confronting her. She feels shame because she’s not sure whether she wants to take him down and she might have a crush on him. With Joey, she learns how to regain her innocence. So many coming-of-age films are about the loss of innocence, and this movie is about the regaining of innocence. It’s about learning how there is strength in vulnerability and that’s what the Joey character shows her.”

Deutch also feels like this movie is an interesting one to watch in this current climate. She explained, “This movie’s very timely although we made this movie before the Harvey Weinstein scandal and before the #Timesup movement and before the #MeToo movement. It’s important to note that the justice system has failed to listen to women and men and they’ve had to take it into their own hands for so long. It’s just now even more timely. I’d never claim that Luke and Erica handled the situation the best way possible but they do their best. Bad decisions; good intentions.”

The actress is also an activist in her own right. “Gloria Steinem said, ‘You can do anything but you can’t do everything.’ It spoke volumes to me at this moment how I feel—overwhelmed—with a desire to make a change and do something… I’m so passionate about reproductive health and women’s rights. It’s a very large category, of course. But that is the thing that I really focus on and am very passionate about. I’m proud to be a woman; proud to be surrounded by women who are brave enough to come forward.”

Check out Flower opening in limited theaters this weekend.

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