When twenty-year-old Ivy heads home Spring Break with a fresh romance in her heart, everything seems to be going perfectly. When her best friend Al finds himself without lodgings, Ivy and her mother take him in and Ivy and Al's friendship strengthens while her boyfriend grows more distant from afar. Increasingly distressed about her conflicting feelings, Ivy must stay resilient in the face of her epilepsy, lest her emotions become something she can't control. Marking Zoe Kazan's first leading role, Bradley Rust Gray's film is a meditative and realistic portrait of a young girl coming of age and finding a deeper kind of love in New York City.
The Exploding Girl
is a rather sleepy coming-of-age tale whose title sequence depicting the girl, Ivy (Zoe Kazan), snoozing in a moving car while sunlight beautifully filters through trees onto her face, sets the tone of the entire feature. With a minimal plot that follows Ivy leaving for spring break from New York to visit her mom (Maryann Urbano); meeting up with her friend Al (Mark Rendall), who needs a place to crash; and then experiencing subtle ups and downs with her boyfriend, Greg, who exists solely as a cell phone voice, The Exploding Girl
feels more like a trickle than an explosion. In many parts, the film functions better as a character study than plot-driven adventure, since Ivy as an epileptic struggles to care for herself and realizes in various moments her reliance on loved ones. As the story progresses and the viewer realizes that little will happen other than Ivy's inner debates about boys and her return from spring break back to what looks like the New York University campus, one might be best off enjoying this film's visual and sonic atmospherics. Sunlight and breeze airs this youthful drama out, making for some lovely sequences in which city noises are tempered by calming nature. Also as the story progresses and Ivy's alliance with Al strengthens, moments of scenic beauty become more obviously punctuated metaphor for Ivy's inner emotional tenor. Toward the end, for example, when Al shows Ivy his rooftop pigeon coops, the characters' peace flows on screen in some palpable way. Given the extras on this DVD, young director Brad Rust Grey's chiaroscuro student film about young adults making out, plus a music video in which crushed-out college students obsessively check their cell phones, one wonders if Grey might become the next John Hughes. Conversely, the characters in The Exploding Girl
are much more melancholic than were Hughes's charismatic stars like Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink
. The Exploding Girl
seeps into the mind, slowly and carefully, with little of the comedy Hughes went for, but it does investigate a younger generation's mode of romantic communication. In this way, one can look forward to Grey's subtle treatments of twentysomethings in future projects. --Trinie Dalton