Movie Review: The Exploding Girl

Written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray, The Exploding Girl is an understated character study of an epileptic college student named Ivy who is spending her spring break back at home in New York City. Her buddy Al is also home for the week, and the two spend their time walking around the city, drinking beers, reading books, and playing card games with Ivy’s mom—typical home-for-a-week activities for the Liberal Arts crowd.


Ivy’s college boyfriend Greg calls her intermittently, but we get the sense that the long silences in their conversations are a harbinger of some heartbreak to come. But drama is not germane to the film—Gray is more interested in taking several moments to follow Ivy down a street at dusk, letting her stop to make a quotidian call on her cell phone. Similar static shots capture Ivy for most of the story: she walks aimlessly around a bookstore, she folds her laundry, she rings Al to see what he’s doing, she leaves a voicemail for Greg—the cell phone appears frequently, and the narrative’s reliance on it is bothersome and sometimes tedious.


So when the inevitable call from Greg does happen, don’t expect anything explosive. The winsome Zoe Kazan, for whom the part of Ivy was written, does a lovely job with her introspective moments in colorful threads, but nothing in the moments on-screen, not even apprehensive flirting with Al, seems to carry much weight for her character. It’s as if Ivy’s life has pocket-dialed us, and we have to listen for a week.


Most appealing in the film are the familiar scenes of New York in the summer and the dialogue that feels natural—a huge relief in a movie about twenty-year-olds. Gray has successfully captured a moment in time for a young woman who is growing up and figuring out who she is, but it’s not a moment for those looking to be absorbed or stirred. [Anna Bean]

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