Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Once in a while a film coheres around an acting performance in such a way that it's difficult to tell whether the director's sensibility is radiated through the actor, or whether the actor's contribution is comprehensive enough to qualify as direction. Zoe Kazan is a phenomenon as the rather ordinary college girl Ivy in Bradley Rust Gray's The Exploding Girl: she acts so completely from within the character that her smallest, least significant bits of business are as vivid as her dramatic peaks. Either Kazan is Ivy - unlikely, as the character is sweet and sensitive but probably not reflective enough to play herself - or her powers of observation and assimilation are uncanny. While we're waiting for clues about Kazan's acting range, we note that her co-star Mark Rendall, as Ivy's best buddy who is secretly in love with her, is also quite good, which suggests that Gray is able to nurture ambient, pseudo-documentary performances that nonetheless have dramatic structure. His verité-style camera is pleasingly simple, a little more stable than the norm, landing on attractive telephoto compositions at key moments. The Exploding Girl has a slight and familiar John Hughes-like story that will probably disqualify it at art in the eyes of many. Yet the drama too is simplified to the point where its one unusual element - Ivy is an epileptic - is deployed so transparently that the story almost becomes a structural commentary on storytelling. The Exploding Girl has four Tribeca Film Festival screenings, all at the AMC Village VII: Thursday, April 23 at 7:45 pm; Saturday, April 25 at 2:45 pm; Tuesday, April 28 at 7:00 pm; and Saturday, May 2 at 5:45 pm.