Max Winkler, director of the coming-of-age movie Flower, corrects me when I mention the film was shot in only 16 days.
“Fifteen-and-a-half days,” he says. “I would have done wonders with that extra half!”
Star Zoey Deutch chimes in. “It is not my job to go, ‘I don’t have enough time.’ My job is to figure out a way to make it work and service the story and the character. All I know is that what is important for a movie that shoots for 15-and-a-half days or for six months is preparation and what you bring to the table before the table is set. That is the most important element.”
Flower is a coming-of-age story in reverse. When we first meet the adolescent main character Erica, played by Deutch, she is already jaded by life. Her father is in jail and she is involved in a very dubious blackmail scheme to earn his bail money.
Over the course of time she regains her innocence, flip flopping the usual teen movie formula.
Winkler, the son of television icon Henry (The Fonz) Winkler, says the success of Flower is a testament to Deutch’s handling of the role.
“It is such a fine line to tread, to have that bravado but at the same time the intense vulnerability to know that she is really just doing this to cover up all this intense fear she has.”
The actress, best known for turns in Before I Fall and Why Him?, finds the qualities that make us feel for Erica. Do we care about Erica the blackmailer? Not particularly. But we can care about why she resorts to blackmail and that’s where Deutch shines.
“I was 20 when we shot this,” says Deutch, “which isn’t so far from 17 so I was able to pull and be inspired from my own experiences. … Erica is very frustrated by the world and she is very frustrating. I remember being frustrated and being frustrating to other people for sure.”
Deutch is winning raves for her work as the rebellious and sassy teen — The Wrap called her performance “truly exceptional” while The Playlist christened her as “charismatic, uber-magnetic” — but don’t ask her about her craft.
“The truth is, and the reason you can probably sense my hesitancy,” she says, “is that I find it really pretentious when actors talk about process. The way I talk about it sounds pretentious so I steer away from it. I would rather be self-deprecating than sound like overly precious about the whole thing.”
She will say that the authenticity of the character came from research and conversation with her director and fellow cast members.
“I did a lot of reading,” she says, “everything from books about female teenage angst and struggle, like Reviving Ophelia. We were always talking about consent and how Erica always relies on her charms and never allows anyone else any semblance of control over her.”
Winkler and Deutch only spent 15-and-a-half days on set but have forged a mutual appreciation for society. “My greatest feeling about this movie is just how brilliant Zoey is in it,” Winkler says.
“There is something really special in pure entertainment,” says Deutch, “and I think Max made something super entertaining and super interesting and super different.”