A young epileptic girl returns to her home in New York while on spring break. She stays with her mother and her best friend Al, whose room is now being rented out by his parents. While there she loses touch with her college boyfriend and reevaluates how she feels about her friend Al.
I wish I could say that opening paragraph was the launching point for the film’s plot, when in fact it is a basically a summary of the entire film. This film is a very understated character study of our female lead and offers little by way of action or complex plot. Writer/Director Bradley Rust Gray’s approach to this film is a sort-of casual, fly-on-the-wall approach to shooting the action (or lack thereof). Gray succeeds when using very long, uninterrupted shots, at very odd angles, as if the cameraman were spying on these these 20-somethings mumbling and fumbling through their awkward feelings and the lame parties they attend in order to capture their unadulterated actions. Whenever a typical shot-reverse-shot occurs (for those not up on film school lingo: an example is simply when the camera is watching one person speak, then cuts to a shot of the person they are speaking to and back again) it actually distracts from the moment for its artificiality removes us from the voyeuristic feel of the camera’s positioning. The ‘captured reality’ approach to the presentation makes it so that I cannot tell if I should attribute the mishandling of situations (mainly some really lame and awkward dialogue) to the characters within the film, or to an awkward script. That is to say, I am able to buy into what is happening in such a way that I forget that there is a team of people working on this film that I cannot see and so I place all responsibility onto the characters.
Gray’s does have an eye for orchestrating some very nice looking shots but as far as the momentum of the film is concerned, the lion’s share of the credit goes to his two lead actors. The will-they won’t-they story moves in predictable directions, and aside from one moment involving the girl’s epilepsy, not a whole lot happens in the film. The performances are convincing enough, and the shots are pretty enough, that I can forgive how frequently dull this film can be.
Widescreen 1.78:1. As mentioned before, this film has a lot of pretty shots. The picture is decent enough to appreciate this but not so crisp that it might lose its indy cred and be mistaken for something with a sizable budget, which it clearly is not.
Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo. The surround sound is very good. When the city is active enough in the film to almost be a character itself, I want to be totally immerse in the sounds of crowds, traffic and the whatever else places me onto the sidewalks and into the buildings. This film immerses the listener very well.
Both Stereo and 5.1 are clear. We sometimes lose the characters voices to the sounds of commotion around them, but that seems to be intentional and fitting with the film’s style (and honestly, the dialogue is often worth missing).
Crafting a Character: Star Zoe Kazan and Bradley Rust Gray are interviewed while wandering the streets of New York. This is a very nice and in depth exploration of the film and the character development. Sheds a very nice light on the film as a whole.
“Thursday” by Asobi Seksu: This song was used during a significant scene in the film where the young friends/possible lovers share a headset and listen to this song. The song is a decent indy, alt-pop sort of tune and the video is a frantic presentation of two people who seemed destined to never meet despite being in constant contact with various phone calls and texts. Sort of missed the mark for me, but I’ll save any rants I may have for the Final Thoughts section.
Flutter: Gray’s 1997 film from his days in Film school. At this point I might have been experiencing indy overload as this black and white, minimalist short seemed to be rubbing me the wrong way. I will grant it this, despite being a touch contrived, more seems to happen in its 5 minutes then all of Exploding Girl.
Like looking at the work of a young art student, perhaps a photographer whose concept of artistic integrity is placing mundane in odd close ups, one can appreciate the work but really, we are not being offered anything that is monumentally stirring. Yes, it is well executed, and the performances are as good as they can be, but are we supposed to be enlightened by yet another story of a 20-something white person from New York? Yes, her condition makes things seem more dire at points, and may even excuse the absurd title of the film (which is a play on a song by The Cure called “The Exploding Boy” by the way) but there can be so much more in cinema then stories where nothing really happens. Its films like this that I sometimes hate criticizing for I here the voices of a million hipsters crying out “you just don’t get it” or “what did you want, explosions?” in my brain if I do. But the lone voice in my head that I trust tells me that there is just so much more out there to be captured on film…but good on the cast and creators of this film for proving that there is talent out there, and thereby; hope for something truly stirring in the future.