Movie review: "The Exploding Girl"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The title of "The Exploding Girl" is a misnomer, and if you're expecting fireworks of any kind, you'll be disappointed.

It's a shy and reticent whisper of a film, a member of a little sub-genre known as "mumblecore." Soft-spoken and light on narrative, this film's either lovely or dull, depending on your perspective.

"Girl" opens with college student Ivy (Zoe Kazan) staring out a car window contemplatively as passing trees blend into a blur. Zoe's returning to her New York City home on summer break with her friend Al (Mark Rendall) in tow.

Al unexpectedly finds himself without a place to stay and crashes with Ivy and her mother. As her relationship with a college boyfriend devolves through awkward phone conversation, Ivy's warm comfort with Al leaves them conflicted.

The naive world of young twentysomethings and their fumblings with love can be a frustrating place, and writer-director Bradley Rust Gray is in no hurry to go anywhere. His setting of a bustling NYC contrasts with the quiet thoughtfulness of his lead character.

Kazan's performance is remarkably emotional, especially since she spends half the film lying in bed talking on the phone. She's understated, but wonderful.

Gray often shoots his subjects from a distance, focusing beyond traffic and passersby in a way that is oddly both intimate and voyeuristic. "Girl" is more of a tone piece than a story, but it hits it right if you have the patience.

"The Exploding Girl"

Opens Friday at the Gateway Film Center

Grade: A-