By Don Simpson | October 20, 2009
Director: Mark David
Wtiter(s): Mark David, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Christopher Morrison
Starring: Ronnie Gene Blevins, Val Kilmer, Diane Ladd, Rip Torn, Peter Falk, Hanna Hall, Bruce Dern, Cloris Leachman
Ethan (Ronnie Gene Blevins) is an agoraphobic heroin addict with no job, and his only ambition is gardening. Ethan’s parents are long gone, but he is still living in the same house that he was raised in. His neighbor Trevor (Rip Torn) is also his evil landlord who has been trying to evict Ethan for several months – as an unemployed heroin addict, Ethan cannot afford his rent. Other than his landlord, most of the residents of Blythe (a small California desert town) try to help Ethan get by. A few old ladies occasionally drop by for a game of cards (letting Ethan win in order to give him much needed cash). The aged prostitute across the street has also taken a liking to Ethan; as has Georgia (Hanna R. Hall), a 17-year old who seems to be the only person in Blythe who feels more existentially trapped in Blythe than Ethan.
American Cowslip is one of the strangest films I have seen in a long time (which says a lot). The exaggerated characters, backdrops and colors all seem to be lensed by a camera on acid – the colors absolutely pop and facial expressions comically explode. Sometimes it feels a little like Hunter S. Thompson, other times it veers into David Lynch terrain. Everything in American Cowslip is so surreal, even unreal, that it’s hard to believe that the lead character in this tale is a junky and a borderline pedophile. The crazed over the top acting performances are mind-blowing and the cinematography is eye-popping, but the herky-jerky and half-assed plot that left me craving a whole lot more.