Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Girl (2021) - Movie Review

We’re in niche mode for this review, as I’m once again deciding to review a film purely because I make it a habit of keeping note of any and all names attached to the things I watch. And this is a particularly ‘me’ iteration of that mindset, as I basically grew up on the work of actor and now-writer/director Chad Faust through his role in The 4400. I got into it a bit when I looked at Project Power, but suffice to say, I loved the hell out of that show as a kid and still love it plenty to this day, and his role as the sleeper agent turned superpowered shaman Kyle Baldwin is a big part of that. Naturally, seeing him step into the director’s chair caught my attention, although I can easily see why the film itself might not have the same effect on others.

A revenge thriller set in the middle of Podunk, Nowhere (otherwise known as the town of Golden), it features Bella Thorne’s titular-unnamed character as she sets out to… bury the hatchet, as it were, with her estranged and abusive father. However, once she arrives, it seems that someone else did the job for her, leaving all that mental preparation, all that built-up anger, without the desired outlet.

Faust and cinematographer Kristofer Bonnell provide a suitably grungy and broken-down visual aesthetic to fit the setting of a grungy and broken-down patch of dirt with buildings in it, giving it a certain Texas Chain Saw feel. This effect is added to by Faust’s role as Charmer, letting him indulge in one of the minor perks of making an independent B-movie (i.e. getting to cut loose as the villain of your own story), along with Mickey Rourke as the local sheriff. And as for Thorne in the lead, while her performance does hit the notes required, she seems to be stuck in two gears for most of the film, either being quiet and pissed-off or confused and out-of-the-loop of what’s really going on around her.

The story at large is all about family, abuse, and how the ramifications of both are hard to escape from. Charmer himself basically explains the main point, likening a shitty family background to a polluted river, with each branching brook carrying the same dirty water to the next bend. It starts out intriguingly enough, having to watch Girl struggle to deal with those emotions, but as it continues to play out, it’s pretty bog-standard for the genre. There’s some musings about breaking the cycle of abuse, doing the best one can to escape from toxic domestic situations, and the effects of abusive parenting ring through in quite a few smaller moments amongst the townsfolk. But the delivery is rather piecemeal, which isn’t exactly the best move for a film where none of the developments are all that surprising.

It’s like a less wilfully insane version of Come To Daddy, with the same fixation on a character relearning about their father under surreal circumstances, but without any of the emotional gut-punches to make the finer points stick. It doesn’t help that the larger messaging about the difficulty in getting past one’s bad upbringing fades out over time into its own little afterthought, as if Faust had a crystal-clear idea of what he wanted to say but not necessarily how to deliver it. For the B-movie that it is, I can’t say it’s all that bad, but it isn’t all that engaging either; it’s split right down the middle, resulting in a film best watched by happenstance rather than directly seeking out. Whoops.

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