PLOT: Ivy (Kazan) and her friend Al (Rendall) spend a college break at home in NYC, during the course of which their relationships change.
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of indie film. The pace is pretty slow and the subject matter is more adult, though I think sophisticated teenagers may enjoy it.
EXPECTATIONS: I'd read a few stories mentioning how great Kazan is in the film, but I'd never really heard what it was about other than that.
Zoe Kazan as Ivy: Kazan (Grandaughter of Elia) makes a big impression as Ivy, an epileptic college student visiting her Mom while on a break from school. Most of the weight of the film rests on her shoulders, she's the main character and in every scene. The opening shot is of her face and much of the rest of the time the camera stays there, as a viewer, we begin to pick up every nuance on her expression and experience of the world through Ivy's eyes. I found myself reminded of another, Zooey Deschanel in her early film roles, especially All the Real Girls. Both actresses have heart shaped faces, wide blue eyes and a taste for adorable dresses. This isn't Kazan's first film and certainly won't be her last. Score: 7
Mark Rendall as Al: Though his performance pales in comparison to Kazan's, Rendall still plays a credible best friend/potential love interest to Ivy. Some scenes could be saccharine in other hands, when Ivy's sick Al brings her a bowl of soup. It's touching and didn't make me nauseous. He seems like a normal guy, which works for the part, but in the end he's just a second banana. Score: 6
TALKING: I'm sure that there was a script, but the dialogue feels like it could have all been improvised. I mean that as a compliment. Unfortunately, college student dialogue isn't that fascinating. Score: 5
SIGHTS: Though the film was shot in NYC, it's hard to tell, the filmmakers doesn't focus on landmarks. Instead the characters go to places people who live in the city would go, walking down the street, parties on rooftops, sitting in small parks. It's a more intimate view than many films take. Score: 6
SOUNDS: All the sound comes from within the world of the film, including music. It's fine but nothing exciting. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: The scene I mentioned earlier, where Ivy is feeling sick and Al brings her some soup is really affecting. It's where I realized that Al and Ivy should end up together.
ENDING: I don't think you could have a softer ending. There's a little closure but not much, it's pretty open.
QUESTIONS: Were they on spring break or a summer break? It only felt like a week but I couldn't be sure. Does Ivy have any other friends?
REWATCHABILITY: Maybe, but I'm not chomping at the bit.
Ivy is the Exploding Girl because she has epilepsy and though she's medicated, if she's not careful she could have a seizure. The idea that this could happen at any time seems to hang over Ivy as she and Al hang out with friends and family. Though Ivy does things like teach a class at her mother's dance studio and go to parties, she seems really removed from events around her. Because of this, as an audience member I felt like I had to really work to understand Ivy. This is not Gray's first film, but he seems determined to keep Ivy at arm's length from any other characters, to the detriment of the film. The only reason the movie works at all is due to Kazan and Rendall's performances, even when sitting and staring she's an engaging actress. But the film could have been much better. I hope to see Kazan in more engaging roles in the future.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10