Written by: Hannah Tran | November 19th, 2020
Girl (Chad Faust, 2020) 1½ out of 4 stars.
Although she remains nameless until the credits roll, the titular girl in writer/director/actor Chad Faust’s directorial debut is remarkably distinct; the problem is that she’s not remarkably likable. After believing her abusive father left her and her mother when she was six, our unconventional heroine attempts to track him down and murder him, only to find that somebody else has beaten her to the punch. Thus, she goes on a mission to figure out both who killed her father and what dark secrets are hidden within her past, encountering some mysterious and corrupt adversaries on the way. But while the intriguing catalyst of the story is sure to draw viewers in, the overly familiar, unintelligent execution is sure to throw them right back out.
While Girl may not work on a big-picture scale, however, it does manage to succeed in setting an effective look and feel. The cinematography has a dark edge that injects excitement and drama into some of the duller scenes. The soundtrack, furthermore, is made up of a well-selected combination of songs that give the film an overwhelming tone of eeriness and poppy playfulness all at once.
Where the film truly stumbles is in the story, itself. It feels structurally uncertain, and although it introduces a number of clever twists, these prove to only be interesting on paper because of their underwhelming integration into the actual narrative. Not only are they often presented too early, but they also have a lack of impact as the screenplay does very little to build a connection between the audience and the characters. Even worse, the protagonist never comes to realizations on her own, which would have made for a more compelling persona, but instead is made out as an intellectually slow, emotionally shallow first-draft of a character that we’ve seen a hundred times before.
Former Disney star Bella Thorne (The DUFF) does little to alleviate this. Her completely wooden, unidimensional take on the lead role is unable to outrun the weak screenplay she was given. Most of her time onscreen is simply spent listening to others explain their motivations, the truth of her backstory, and the course of the plot without either party doing much work to actually discover those things themselves or progress the narrative through action. Though Girl might struggle with its story and characters, however, it is certainly not the worst of its genre, thanks to its intriguing tone and style. Finally, the setup itself is still sure to inspire curiosity, even if no one delivers on it.