American Cowslip


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The director/co-author of American Cowslip must be a genius.

Not because of his movie, which is too full of cowslip, but because of his persuasive powers. Somehow or another he managed to recruit Rip Torn, Val Kilmer, Diane Ladd, Cloris Leachman, Bruce Dern, Priscilla Barnes and Peter Falk to appear in his li'l indie movie. That dude missed his calling. He needs to get out of moviemaking and into sales!

American Cowslip is a surreal black comedy about the final days of an agoraphobic junkie pedophile - and he's the sympathetic character! Well, he does profess to love all living things, especially flowers. Well, flowers are maybe second to underaged girls. The rest of the characters in his life include his maniacal landlord and neighbor (Torn) who wants to evict him, his too-religious brother (Kilmer) and a senile priest (Falk) who want to perform an exorcism on him, some kindly but daft old ladies (Leachman, Ladd) who enable his heroin purchases by intentionally losing to him at poker, the underaged girl's violent father (Dern) who threatens to kill him, a stolen donkey who shares his house, a local prostitute (Barnes) who loves him and claims she actually works nights at a burger joint, a developmentally-challenged young man who sits in a neighboring yard all day and tries to solve Rubik's Cube, and the acid-tongued paper boy who is also willing to be the neighborhood pusher if the price is right.

The film has some highly stylized art direction and cinematography, presenting the setting entirely in beautiful, bright, over-saturated colors which make the junkie's filthy house and ragged garden look as pretty and inviting as a family cartoon come to life. Director Mark David was also the cinematographer, and demonstrated a lot of talent in the latter assignment, but you have to wonder why he chose a palette that would make a junkie's life seem to have fairy tale beauty. The protagonist himself explains the logic behind this when he asks the underaged object of his affections if she has ever felt love greater than Jesus was capable of, or if she has ever felt happy and complete, or if she has ever been in perfect harmony with everyone and everything in the universe. She answers in the negative and he tells her that he always feels those things, and that's why he shoots junk. In other words, the glorious beauty of his litter-strewn and vomit-covered house is the way he sees and feels it, not the way it appears in objective reality. This also goes a long way toward explaining all the surreal characters and situations around him. The camera records a junkie's haze, not objective reality.

Fairly ambitious.

Does it all work? No, not really.

I did get a kick out of Rip Torn, who was asked to bring the crazy as a one-dimensional antagonist, and did so consistently, but I found the film very difficult to get through, although it maintains a consistently energetic pace. It's one of those films where the first twenty minutes or so make it clear where everything must go, and the rest of the running time represents the process of getting there. Sometimes that can work, because journeys are not necessarily less interesting than destinations, but not in this case, where the journey consists of sophomoric writing and juvenile humor, much of it involving constipation and vomiting. Screenwriter David is far less talented than director David and editor David, who are in turn not as proficient as cinematographer David. The film has a solid veteran cast, frenetic energy, and a custom look, but the jejune script ultimately kills the project.

The film flips even farther out in the final two minutes and incorporates some magic realism, or maybe I should call it magic surrealism, and a bit of unexpected sentimentality, thus bringing even more crazy to the table. If only it had been more of the funny crazy and less of the purely demented kind. The film tried for amusingly and endearingly quirky, but just ended up being self-consciously odd. That might have been tolerable, or at least more tolerable, at 80 minutes of running time, but this nonsense goes on for an agonizing and repetitive 113 minutes.


  No major reviews online.


7.4 IMDB summary (of 10)

That score is misleading. The ballot box has been stuffed, and the comments are filled with obviously fulsome remarks from one-time commenters - things like "nothing less than 113 minutes of life, love, laughter, and addiction - without a single minute wasted!" Throwing out the unlikely 10/10 scores, the arithmetic mean is 4.4, with 19 votes above three and another 19 at three or less.


No theatrical release.



  • Ronnie Gene Blevins showed his butt
  • Priscilla Barnes seems to have exposed her pubes, and offered some spectacular downblouse shots.



Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It's only for you if you're looking for something really off-beat and don't mind that it's filled with adolescent humor. Picture Gilligan as a junkie.