The Exploding Girl
Written and Directed by Bradley Rust Gray
Running Time: 80 minutes
Originally Released (USA): April 22, 2009 (Tribeca Film Festival)
* ½ (out of four)
Watching Bradley Rust Gray’s The Exploding Girl, I had the thought that perhaps a more appropriate title for the film would be Awkward Silence. That wouldn’t be fair, however. The movie does indeed contain a lot of awkward silences, but it also contains a lot of awkward small talk and awkward telephone conversations. By the film’s end, I found myself hoping that the lead character might literally explode, just to add some pizzazz to the narrative. I even watched through the closing credits in case there was a surprise left in store. Nope. This really is a film in which almost nothing happens.
Ivy (Zoe Kazan) is a college student returned home for the summer. Al (Mark Rendall), Ivy’s best friend since their early teenage years, is also home from college for the summer. When Al discovers that his parents have rented out his bedroom, he asks Ivy if he can stay on her mom’s couch. (I guess his own parents don’t own a couch?) Ivy agrees and the two start hanging out. But Ivy, who is something of a wallflower, is not very comfortable in groups. She prefers one-on-one time with Al. When she can’t have it, she prefers to spend time alone. During these lonesome moments, Ivy calls her college boyfriend, Greg, who is usually too busy to talk and never fulfills his promises to call her back. On the plus side, he ends every truncated phone call with an obligatory “I miss you.”
And there you have it. Spicing up the plot is the fact that Ivy is an epileptic. This is not to say that Ivy’s epilepsy factors into the movie all that much. It just rounds out her character a bit.
Kazan gives a laudable performance as Ivy. She is able to communicate a great deal with her blank stares, of which the film is particularly fond. Unfortunately, The Exploding Girl offers little else to recommend it. There just isn’t anything going on 99% of the time. If you don’t believe me, check out the trailer at the bottom of this post, bearing in mind that it showcases the most rousing parts of the movie. I suspect that the dialogue was improvised at least some of the time, which made it sound natural. However, it also sounded like it was improvised by people who didn’t really know what to say to each other. That might have served the filmmaker’s aims, but as a moviegoer, I wanted more. An excellent portrayal of boredom is still pretty boring to watch.