The Exploding Girl
Directed by Bradley Rust Gray
The Exploding Girl looks a good sight better than a Joe Swanberg movie, but it is any less vacuous? The life and loves of the young and inarticulate make up Bradley Rust Gray's chosen subject—in this case a pair of longtime Platonic friends returning home to their outer borough neighborhood during a college break. While epileptic Ivy (Zoe Kazan) worries over her (unseen) boyfriend's unavailability, Al (Mark Rendell) parties hard, and the two haltingly stumble their way around the possibility of their own long-deferred hook-up. Stumble is right. The film's conversations proceed with a great deal of self-conscious difficulty, slogging through their share of pregnant pauses, "like"s and "um"s. But for all their spurious realism, these exchanges don't ever feel like actual people interacting, rather like a stylized conception of what modern youth are supposed to sound like.
And what youth. Kazan and Rendell make a handsome hipster-y pair (pigtails meet facial scruff), and Gray offers a cursory stab at suggesting a wider scope of interest for the two (Ivy teaches a dance class to a group of black children, Al is interested in Tesla and evolutionary science), but there's finally little inner life to these self-involved dullards. Similarly, while setting them off in middle distance against Brooklyn streets creates a series of pleasing compositions, Gray offers little sense of any meaningful correspondence between character and environment. A late scene set at a rooftop pigeon roost attempts to correct the balance, but this last bit of contrived prettiness finally rings as false as nearly every character interaction in the movie.
Opens March 12