The Exploding Girl Review
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When Ivy (Zoe Kazan) comes home to New York for spring break, she’s reluctant to leave her new boyfriend behind but happy to reconnect with her old friend, Al (Mark Rendall). So after Al ends up without a place to stay, Ivy and her mother (Maryann Urbano) let him crash on their couch.

Throughout the break, Ivy struggles to stay in touch with her boyfriend, but he rarely even returns her calls. Meanwhile, the more time she spends with Al, the more they connect.

About 10 minutes into The Exploding Girl, you may start wondering, Is anything going to happen? And I’m afraid the answer is no. Very little happens in this short indie drama—and what could have been a 30-minute story gets dragged out into a feature-length film with the help of uncomfortable silences and clumsy conversations about Nikola Tesla, stomach cramps, and babies.

  
 
I have a feeling that director Bradley Rust Gray initially told his casting director to cast “Zoe—you know, the cute indie chick with those big, expressive eyes” for the role of Ivy, expecting to get Zooey Deschanel. So it must have been quite a letdown when he showed up for the first day of filming and found that he’d be working with Zoe Kazan instead. Sure, she’s still cute, in that quirky, indie kind of way, but she isn’t nearly as lovable or expressive as that other Zooey. Most of the time, she just seems flat and lifeless, those big eyes empty.

Really, though, poor Zoe had very little to work with. Most of the film feels completely unscripted and off-the-cuff—as if the young, relatively inexperienced actors were left to come up with their own awkward dialogue. Instead, they spend most of the movie saying little and looking uncomfortable.

Even the major plot points—the ones that should have been planned out for them—seem contrived and unnatural. For instance, Al ends up staying at Ivy’s place because his parents have rented out his room, and they weren’t sure when he was coming home. Already, that’s pretty unlikely, but it’s even more unlikely that he’d end up sleeping on a friend’s couch instead of sleeping on the couch in his own home (unless, of course, his parents rented that out, too).

Granted, The Exploding Girl does have some beautiful moments—including its final scene, which is just about perfect. But the rest is dull and graceless, like a film school experiment gone wrong. In the hands of a more seasoned cast, it may have been a simple but thoughtful coming-of-age story—but Kazan and Rendall get lost in the film’s minimalism, turning it into a quiet, character-driven study in awkwardness.

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