Zoe Kazan doesn’t exactly explode here—it’s more the churning upset of lovesick implosion. (You don’t have to be a doctor to realize that her character, Ivy, also coping with epilepsy, has a serious case of boyfriend-attention disorder.) She lolls around Manhattan and Brooklyn during a brief break from college, quietly yielding to the vibrations of her cell and flirting in that infuriatingly blank way perfected by hipsters.
Yet it would be a mistake to confuse Bradley Rust Gray’s slender drama for another bit of disposable mumblecore. The Exploding Girl plunges us deep into the wide eyes of its up-and-coming star, who almost certainly won’t find a better vehicle for her quiet, cherubic charms. The incidents of the movie are minimal: walks, naps, rooftop hangs. Still, you calibrate to Kazan’s loping pace—as well as that of a potential suitor, Al (Rendall), not quite the lure that we hope for. The movie is inward and vaguely gothy; not for nothing does its title reference a Cure B-side. (If you know the song, consider that a personal invite.) You begin to pick up a feeling for the warm weather and well-judged locations.
Gray and his filmmaker-producer wife, So Yong Kim (In Between Days), are something of a rising force in indie cinema. There have been arguments about whether their underdramatized movies—including last year’s Treeless Mountain—are beneficial or represent settling for less. Here’s a corollary opinion: When you have an actor as suggestive as Kazan, swallowing up the lens with allure and complexity, your writer-director becomes superfluous.