'Girl' is a promising debut for Chad Faust, featuring a rugged, captivating, and screen-hungry Bella Thorne.
- 🪓 Girls get it done.
- 🪓 Thorne is showcased.
- 🪓 Homestyle havoc.
- 🪓 Might be too streamlined for some.
- 🪓 Lighter on action, fair warning.
In Girl, Chad Faust represents this "Modern Western" Americana landscape of lawlessness and renegades that does not reflect elsewhere's metropolitan growth. Think Blue Ruin, I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, or Blood On Her Name. It's easy to forget how much real estate exists from sea to shining sea, including blindspots where communities resemble what's left after a dystopian cleansing of Earth. Faust draws inspiration from the ways filmmakers like Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair have sought to highlight these poverty-punished backwoods where unthinkable revenge rampages can, perceptively, occur. So very primitive in their blue-collar imprisonment, where escape is futile, and survival isn't guaranteed.
Bella Thorne stars as the titular "Girl," who travels to her podunk birthplace to kill her abusive father. Instead, she finds papa (John Clifford Talbot) already bound and slain. It was mama (Elizabeth Saunders) who claimed her bastard of a husband broke her back and skipped on child support payments, but any previous narrative crumbles to dust thanks to the discovered corpse. Maybe the town's sheriff (Mickey Rourke) can help, or a younger fellow known as Charmer (Chad Faust). All the local barkeep (Glen Gould) warns is not to cross "The Brothers," but there's no hiding from anyone in a town this minuscule.
Girl is — and stay with me here — simplicity akin to a well-cooked steak. As per a wise Canadian, "Salt and pepper heavily. Grill at 400. Four minutes total. Flip each minute to get the good grill marks. Let sit for two minutes. Down the hatch." Faust is equally dedicated to minimal ingredients as an accentuation of his narrative's "meat," nothing more than a handful of varmints threatening one feisty-and-capable heroine. Thorne's protagonist steps off a transit bus minutes after the opening credits conclude and locates her deceased father. From here, it's certified tension and no-frills complications.
Thorne accepts heavy lifting duties as an investigator, brawler, and judicial enactor. Without spoiling the intricacies of events, there's a hidden stash of money that multiple parties desire unbeknownst to Faust's protagonist. Thorne's motivations shift from her mother's protection to exposing her father's assassins, and she's the toughest of cookies with deadly axe-throwing skills. Rourke and Faust interject most since one oversees with a badge and the other shows immediate interest in Thorne's outsider, but Faust empowers Thorne's performance overall. A child fighting out of love, endangered by lies, and thrown to the wolves only to learn from their fierceness and strike back with greater ferocity.
Again referencing the likes of Blue Ruin and Blood On Her Name, Faust works so comfortably inside the town's rural desolation where everyone - the few locals left - knows your name, sins, and connections. The conditions of grungy laundromats that'd only add stink to your clothes, dirt paths as roads, and widespread dilapidation detail a backdrop where brothers can commit literal murders in search of treasure like modern-day pirates. Frankly, it shouldn't translate. Yet as Saulnier and others accomplished, Faust can focus on his characters' vile inhibitions without any impediments. Rourke plays leathery and gruff like he should have spurs jangling on his boots. Faust himself sells intimate moments of offered - wait for it - "rehydrated" jerky to Thorne's crush. No one's hiding, no one's thinking too hard, and that makes for a special kind of thriller once claws are brandished.
If you're wondering whether this is one of my vaguest reviews ever, I assure you, that's a correct assumption. My description of the plot above holds for all of fifteen minutes; then Chad Faust gets to the grit and scumbags and retaliation. Bella Thorne charges like a bull (with her nose ring as a physical connection), unafraid of the gents who lord over their junkyard kingdom like savages. Girl takes quite literally the idea that it's every woman for herself against the world, and how our destinies are best lived for ourselves. There will always be those who prey on your kindness and demand emotional debts. Those people aren't worth your pain, your sacrifice, or everything else Thorne puts into her performance. Maybe not the most revelatory of revenge arcs, but damn-sure an incensed and steely one worth your ride along.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for such outlets as What To Watch, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria, Shudder, Ebert Voices, and countless other publications. He is a member of the Hollywood Critics Association and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.
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