In the Errol Morris produced, Brian Posehn starring Christmas comedy Uncle Nick, the titular character is an overweight, snarky, debauched alcoholic, who does not let anyone get close to him. He wants to sleep with his brother’s wife’s 19-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. However, he does have a heart, and thanks to perfect writing, directing, and casting, the audience grows to love and even side with Nick once the proverbial crap hits the fan. That is trickier than one might think to pull off properly.
Just ask Sahm McGlynn, whose writing, directing, producing, and starring in his feature-length debut in Love Flower (which has no relation to the 1920 D.W. Griffith movie of the same name). This dramatic comedy begins with Joshua (co-writer Ben Lynch) and sets up how his life is in a rut. His boss at the home security firm he works at does very little; aside from asking Joshua to stay late every night.
His neighbor Wade (Will David) barges into his house and borrows appliances whenever he wants. Joshua’s girlfriend Rachel (Anna Irving) flirts with Wade all the time, and probably doing more. Things turn from bad to worse when Joshua’s old friend Bucky (Sahm McGlynn) shows up and disrupts his life top to bottom.
“Things turn from bad to worse when Joshua’s old friend Bucky shows up and disrupts his life top to bottom.”
There are a lot of stories that deal with acquaintances from the past showing up which ignites the lead character to examine their life and what they truly want. The difference is that usually, the audience understands what the main character sees in their pal from childhood. In the case of Bucky, there is no such understanding. Bucky forces his way onto Joshua’s couch, insults Rachel, and attacks Joshua’s manhood all before being reunited with his fried for 24-hours. Bucky is so devoid of human characteristics or likable/relatable qualities. Anyone tolerating this grotesque figure for longer than two minutes is more unrealistic than any superhero movie ever made.
But it is all okay because Bucky’s boorish behavior can be explained away. See, the epitome of disgusting in human form is dying, so he is allowed to be a jerk. That certainly could potentially explain away some of the behavior, such as having no filter for what he says. But that only gets one so far, and Bucky is such a douche at every turn it is impossible to believe anyone would be friends with him. At an hour in, a character asks how much is Bucky’s life worth? My first thought was, someone would have to pay me not to kill him.
Look, there is a twist late in Love Flower. I won’t spoil it, but it makes Bucky’s characterization so, so much worse. It also throws into sharp relief how unlikable everyone else is. Rachel flirts and cheats on Joshua. Wade is close to Bucky levels of obnoxiousness. Then there is the carpet himself, Joshua. The ending takes away every ounce of goodwill the audience has for him, as the story of a man needing to gain confidence in himself drifts away. It is revealed to be more nuanced than that, but it also turns Joshua into a terrible person. Who wants to spend 90-minutes with people they want to kill or hate?
What makes the writing of the characters all the more disappointing is that the cast is remarkable. Ben Lynch’s constant deadpan and distant stare when he tunes out the annoying crap around him creates humor out of dire situations. As Rachel, Anna Irving’s casual flirtations and descriptors of the yoga health oils she sells are ridiculous. However, it’s McGlynn as Bucky that really proves himself.
“…easily the single worst character I have seen in a movie in 2019, to date…”
As much as I hate the character (easily the single worst character I have seen in a movie in 2019, to date), McGlynn commits all the way to the role. He has no shame, which grounds certain scenes more than one expects. After his first night on Joshua’s couch, he wakes up nude, with just Rachel’s blanket wrapped around his waist. She tells him to get his nether regions out of her stuff. He just blows her off and spends most of that day in wrapped in the blanket. Dickish though it is (it is actions like this that make everyone rallying around Bucky as the film progresses so hard to swallow) the actor sells the boorish, uncaring attitude well. Plus, the chemistry between everyone in the cast is fantastic, as each person pairs well and bounces off each other with great ease.
The other facet that keeps this film from being a total waste of time is that McGlynn is a competent director. Love Flower is aiming for a precise tone, and he nails it. Every scene, be it a broad comedic moment involving the Healer, or a quieter section in which Joshua has an epiphany mixes well with whatever came before. Attempts at balancing levity and weightier themes have devoured other movies so that it works here is a testament to McGlynn’s talents.
Look, I understand that these people sucking is part of where the comedy stems from. However, I hated them all so much that I did not find any amusement in their antics. But Love Flower is incredibly well-directed, and the cast is perfect in every way. It is just frustrating that all that talent and skill wound up in service of characters that will turn the majority of audience members off.
"…aiming for a precise tone, and he nails it"