The Exploding Girl

Zoe Kazan carries "The Exploding Girl"

The best reason to see “The Exploding Girl” is Zoe Kazan.  She anchors this latest entry in the genre known as “mumblecore,” a term for low budget films that focus on the daily life and speech patterns of “twenty-somethings.”  Other examples of “mumblecore” include the work Andrew Bujalski,  “Funny Ha, Ha” (2002) and “Beeswax” (2009).  My problem with “Mumblecore” is that it tends to be short on story and long on character idiosyncrasies – halting speech patterns, daily life details, etc.

While “The Exploding Girl” is certainly not for every one, Kazan’s performance is winning and believe me, her performance is the film.  It is good to see Kazan take on a leading role.  I have always been impressed with the presence she has brought to smaller parts in “Revolutionary Road” “Me and Orson Welles,” “It’s Complicated” and other films.  Here Kazan plays the titular character, actually named Ivy.  Ivy does not explode, but maybe implode is more accurate.

Ivy is home on a break from college and is having boyfriend trouble.  Her boyfriend is never seen but becomes a character through Ivy’s many cell phone calls to him and voice mail messages from him.  He is hesitant and non-commital.  Meanwhile, Ivy pines for male friend Al, played by Mark Rendall, who is staying with her and her mother over the break.  Al is oblivious to Ivy’s interest.  One would think that Ivy could do much better than these two “non-commits” especially with Kazan’s arresting, big, soft expressive eyes.  Both these guys must be insane.

That Kazan’s Ivy has just the right touch of vulnerability and charm to have kept my attention through a story that it is paper thin and in a genre of which I am not a big fan says a lot.  Director Bradley Rust Gray shoots the film primarily with long lenses which flatten out the backgrounds and keep the attention on Kazan’s face while she roams around Manhattan and Brooklyn talking on her cell, where the drama seems as if it could turn on whether she decides to wear her hair up or down.  For me these are not usually not enough to sustain a feature film, but “The Exploding Girl” brought me perhaps half way there.  However “Mumblecore” does have its followers who will especially enjoy “The Exploding Girl.”

The Exploding Girl, director Bradley Rust Gray, 2009, Oscilloscope, 79 minutes


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on March 18, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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