The Exploding Girl, quiet indie character study, not rated, Regal DeVargas, 3 chiles The title of the newest film by screenwriter/director Bradley Rust Gray is as beguiling as the subtle advancement of its minimal plot. Shot in a frequently claustrophobic or view-obstructed style using a Red One high-definition camera, The Exploding Girl is a character study of a quiet, unnerving variety. (Some may even say, given its lack of on-screen excitement, that it’s also frustratingly mundane.) It’s the kind of shoestring-budget film that boasts so many sustained scenes of inaction and silence that the fourmember cast must dig deep to push the story forward with any acceptable level of believability (their demeanor recalls actor Michael Pitt’s near-mute turn as the Kurt Cobain-styled character in Gus Van Sant’s haunting 2005 film Last Days).
Gray, who co-wrote the equally subdued 2006 film In Between Days with his wife and filmmaking partner, So Yong Kim, continues to test the boundaries of bearable cinematic naturalism (in this case, by embracing the decade-old “mumblecore” film movement, which prides itself on small budgets, unseasoned actors that do very little besides talk casually, and extremely loose screenwriting) while mining the young-adult female psyche for his tales of growing up.
The titular girl is Ivy, played with necessarily noncombustible flair by Zoe Kazan ( Revolutionary Road, Me and Orson Welles) — granddaughter of On the Waterfront director Elia Kazan. Home to visit her mother (Maryann Urbano) while on spring break from college, Ivy leaves behind her mopey boyfriend, Greg (Franklin Pipp), whom she suspects may be losing interest in her. Their long-distance relationship is marked by Ivy’s near-stalker-type cellphone calls to Greg and his growing irritation with her infatuation and neediness.