From its very first minute, Flower, a coming-of-age film about a “sexually curious teen” tells us something sinister is afoot: As a man breathes noisily, the camera pans from a tossed-aside mountain bike to a parked cop car. “Where’d you learn to give a hummer like that?” a uniformed man asks his 17-year-old female passenger. She deadpans, “Middle school.”
Zoey Deutch, 23, who plays said teen, Erica, remembers the first time she read the script. “My initial thought was, I can’t believe they’re going to let a movie get made where the central character is a girl who does this stuff and talks like that,” she says. Erica is a mouthy, manipulative, milk-mustache-wiping bull of a young person, struggling to cope with her mom’s new boyfriend, a new stepbrother, and a dad in jail. “All of her ‘bad’ behavior comes from the fact that she feels very much out of control,” Deutch says. “To me she felt complicated and frustrated and fragile.”
Movies don’t typically get made about girls like Erica. “I feel like I’ve been on the sidelines watching all of my male actor friends get parts like this,” Deutch says. So up until now, she has all but perfected the “good girl”: She’s been an undercooked love interest in Richard Linklater’s jockfest Everybody Wants Some!!, the pizza-eating, beer-drinking muse in an Ed Sheeran music video (“Perfect”), and a perky foil to James Franco (twice) in Why Him? and The Disaster Artist. Not surprisingly, Flower was more satisfying. “When people go, ‘Zoey, was it hard to play Erica?’ I’m like, ‘Nope,’” she says. “But if you ask me, ‘Zoey, was it hard to play [a party girl] in Dirty Grandpa?’ I’d say, ‘Yes! Brutal.’ I didn’t know how to make a one-dimensional female character in a male-driven comedy work. It’s very hard to be good when your character is underwritten.”
“…If you ask me, ‘Zoey, was it hard to play [a party girl] in Dirty Grandpa?’ I’d say, ‘Yes! Brutal.'”
My prediction: Flower, which was directed by Max Winkler (yes, the Fonz’s son) and filmed over the course of 16 days with a predominantly female crew, will take some heat for its ambivalence toward topics like consent and sextortion. But Deutch, who considers the film something like karmic retribution against her high school bullies—“mean boys whose names I still struggle with not naming because I haven’t given up the grudge”—will no doubt remind you of the fierce, frustrated, and fragile women you know and love. “My sister saw the movie and said, ‘A lot of her is like you.’ I’m like, ‘Interesting,’” she says. “Erica was possibly the most freeing character I’ve ever played.”
Flower is in theaters now.