Directed by Matt Smukler.
Starring Kiernan Shipka, Alexandra Daddario, Charlie Plummer, Jean Smart, Jacki Weaver, Kannon Omachi, Dash Mihok, Reid Scott, Samantha Hyde, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Brad Garrett, Chloe Rose Robertson, Chris Mulkey, Amanda Jones, Josh Plasse, Clayton Royal Johnson, Kimleigh Smith, Sanjay Nambiar, and Erika Alexander.
A coming-of-age film that follows Bea Johnson from birth to graduation as she navigates life with a father with an intellectual disability and an extended family who can’t agree on how best to help.
Teenager Bea Johnson (Kiernan Shipka) has more than just a dysfunctional family; her parents are intellectually disabled. Wild flower Director Matt Smukler (expanding on a story inspired by true events along with screenwriter Jana Savage) has the right look casting intellectually disabled actors Samantha Hyde and Dash Mihok as the parents, but not much else about those characters, starting the movie with the wrong note. and something recovers, but that sour taste never goes away.
The problem is that these specific types of movies that argue that there is more to disabled people than meets the eye need to stop focusing on non-disabled characters who need to learn about their abilities. that does not mean Wild flower It would have been better if it had focused on intellectually disabled parents Sharon and Derek, because honestly, in this case, that could have made for a more insulting movie given the script’s penchant for treating them as comic devices to be laughed at despite trying to make a point that they are not as helpless as their daughter perceives them to be. So far, the exception to the rule is codathat he saw his disabled characters as down-to-earth, down-to-earth human beings where the comedy came from their personalities and struck at the perceptions of non-disabled people. Wild flower it’s not coda by any stretch of the imagination.
Unfolding through a narrated series of flashbacks after introducing Bea in a coma where she seeks to regain her memory of what hospitalized her, the story begins before she was even born. Sharon, who was approximately 21 years old and with the mindset of an early teen, saw Derek, who was left intellectually disabled after an automobile-related injury, doing a job outside his home, thought he was attractive, and decided to date him. Sharon’s mom (Jean Smart) was supportive of this, aware that her daughter still needs to make friends, while her dad (Brad Garrett) was mortified that *gasp* disabled people could have sex and potentially procreate. Fortunately, the movie is aware that some of these characters are wrong.
A few scenes later, the whole family has gathered (including Derek’s unfiltered mom, played by Jacki Weaver, doing her usual comedic routine that doesn’t fit here), surrounded by a baby named Bambi. Sharon and Derek may have named their son Bambi in real life; that’s not the annoying part. What’s frustrating is that the script can’t resist using this as a joke to point out how childish they are and how unsuitable they are for parenting (including a quick shot of Sharon nearly dropping the baby off the couch onto the floor), which makes Bambi/Bea’s inevitable revelation that they can take care of themselves seem like hollow nonsense, not because that may or may not be true, but because this movie is only concerned with turning parents into a joke and not taking the steps necessary to prove that they are capable parents beyond briefly mentioning that Derek may have a job.
Wild flowerThe first act is aggravatingly insulting to the point where you can’t hold a grudge against anyone who doesn’t even make it to the section of the narrative where Bea is a teenager played by Kiernan Shipka. Fortunately, her character is much more attractive, she naturally deals with bullying from having disabled parents and not always fitting in at school (although she does have a supportive best friend, played by Kannon Omachi). Soon after, cancer survivor Ethan (Charlie Plummer) transfers into the school. The two quickly develop a believable relationship with strong chemistry based on being strangers (apparently, Ethan only has one testicle from enjoying cancer treatments).
As such, Wild flower it works best when it comes to Bea understanding what relationships are and not being afraid to chase dreams. At one point, she discusses an awkward version of the future with her boyfriend, which sparks an argument, but her reason for suggesting that unfortunately stems from the only way of life she’s ever known; those are the dramatic moments that feel real and are something Wild flower should have leaned towards more. There are also the usual coming-of-age clichés, like a major school essay and a wise-cracking high school superintendent. The low psychological moments stem from the pressures of life leading Bea into terrifying situations that turn out to be a reminder of how horrible men can be, providing some thrills and a respite from the eye-rolling tropes.
Kiernan Shipka and Charlie Plummer are talented and low-key enough to involve us in their family relationship; their performances make Wild flower watchable. The rest is tonally embarrassing and misses the mark, even if the work of Samantha Hyde and Dash Mihok is touching as well. Don’t blame any actor; The script and direction are lifted directly from a campy mid-2000s inspirational drama with good intentions despite its misguided tone.
Blinking Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the reviews editor for Flickering Myth. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]