Can this mass murderer be saved?
That’s the rhetorical question of “Wallflower,” a dreamy docudrama about a Seattle mass shooting that is equal parts evocative and provocative.
The “dreamy” part is the setting. This 2006 shooting happened at a rave after party, and writer-director Jagger Gravning goes to great pains in taking us inside Seattle’s rave scene of the day. Whatever else it has going for it, “Wallflower” is the most immersive, critical and flattering picture of the Techno Fans/Friends of Molly ever.
Jumping back and forth in time, losing itself in the asexual sensuality of a vast, supportive crowd, each member dancing with her or himself — lost in MDMA, mushroom and marijuana augmented bliss — “Wallflower” parks a future mass shooter (David Call) in their ranks.
And they reach out to him, welcome him and try to encourage him to embrace their version of chill and mellow.
“You look kinda bummed out,” Noob Girl (Hannah Horton) says, expressing concern.
“We’re trying to create a safe space,” explains Strobe Rainbow (Atsuko Okatsuka, the stand-out in this cast), a lesbian trying to assauge the “bummed” one’s natural suspicions. Young women and underage girls are in the mix, stoned enough that if other ravers don’t look out for each other (they do), seem like rapes waiting to happen.
It’s just that there’s no erasing his general paranoia. “What’s really going on in here?” he asks, more than once.
His permanent scowl didn’t keep the stoner-philosopher Link (Conner Marx) from inviting him, on first meeting, to the rave in the first place, and then to the after party, Sharpie writing the address on his arm, where our would-be killer tries his worst not to fit in.
“I brought enough ammunition for ALL of you,” he hisses into a mirror in a flash forward, as he fetishizes his firearmsloads up his “street sweeper” shotgun and dons his bandoliers loaded with shells.
Tip to America’s gun dealers. Young, frowning white guy in a hoodie wants bandoliers, and/or 100 round magazines for his semi-automatic weapon? Might want to call the cops.
Gravning, with his time skipping — “five years before” the film’s “present,” and years after it — is underlining the blamelessness of the victims here.
The film’s humor comes from the level of conversation one overhears from the juice-boxed, hydrated and apparently inexhaustable ravers and they come down from their all-night “peaking” — mainly at the after-party.
Inane chatter about “D.W. Griffith’s ‘Intolerance'” and things of an arty-ethereal nature dominate conversations. Hard relationship counseling? That’s only for much later, long past the peak.
Link goes on and on about time. “The universe became very CLEAR to me,” he pontificates, although the “I was really high” footnote is all we need to hear.
“It’s sooo not cool that it’s cool” declares the teen who names herself “Noob Girl” amongst the group that includes Optima Prime, Shroom Fairy, Cheshire Kitty and Power Ranger. “I take a lot of Molly ironically,” she rationalizes.
The “sketchy” interloper wanders from room to room, gets embraced and kissed by the friendly stoners and samples a “shroom” himself from the lazy Susan of drugs in Link’s basement.
“Why are you just sitting there like a creeper?” is the rare challenge he hears. Considering his awkward come-ons to various women (none of the onanistic hedonists there seem the least bit interested in hook-ups), he gets off easily.
Call’s “murderer” is a brooding one-note character and is never humanized by the flashing back and forward shown here. The film gives him the luxury of judging the behavior of the others, but not the viewer.
We’re entranced by the pulsing, self-generated light show (glow sticks, glowing hula hoops, glowing gloves) of the rave, the Woodstock Revisited innocence of its inhabitants.
“Wallflower” is a “docudrama,” and while there are righteous reasons for not naming the murderer here, it also excuses any inaccuracy or point-of-view bias the filmmaker might introduce.
But Gravning gives us a fever dream of blameless remorse, guiltless survivor’s guilt and a broken Montana soul that was lost long before he was invited into a world that he chose to shatter, lost at the very moment he stopped in a gun shop and asked for bandoliers.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, drug abuse, profanity
Credits: Written and directed by Jagger Gravning. A Passion River release.
Running time: 1:24