Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie Review: The Exploding Girl

The Exploding Girl ** ½
Directed by:
Bradley Rust Gray.
Written By: Bradley Rust Gray.
Starring: Zoe Kazan (Ivy), Mark Rendall (Al), Maryann Urbano (Ivy's Mom).

There is an unforced naturalism to Zoe Kazan’s performance in The Exploding Girl that is both impossible to resist and impossible to teach to an actor. She plays a university student on break and visiting her small home town. She struggles with epilepsy, and has started dating a student at her college - although when she comes back home, she starts hanging out with her old high school friend Al (Mark Rendall). Theirs was a friendship where there was some sexual tension, but was never acted upon. Now perhaps after months apart, they can finally admit their feelings to each other.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of Kazan when she was onscreen - which is pretty much every frame of the film. She makes every scene interesting - whether she’s talking to Al, her mother or her boyfriend on the phone, she seems to inhabit this character completely naturally. She is the perfect choice to play a girl that seemingly every guy has in his life - that longtime friend that at some point you start to look at in a different way. It is a great performance.

The problem is that the performance is in service of a rather shallow, superficial indie film. There is nothing here all that different or unique - and without Kazan nothing would even be all that interesting. She makes the film work a lot better than it probably should. Without her, this movie would be pretty much unbearable.

Written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray, The Exploding Girl is ultimately rather superficial and shallow. It has a nice, laid back feel to it, but throughout the film I kept wondering if he really had anything to say with this film or not. I suppose it works on the level that he wants it to - he simply wants to make a laid back little film about a week in the life of these characters - and he succeeds in doing that. The question really is whether that goal is enough to make The Exploding Girl interesting enough to see. To me, it doesn’t - although you may want to see it solely for Kazan’s performance, which deserves a movie a whole lot more interesting than this one.

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