Friday, November 20, 2020

Girl, Starring Bella Thorne

Forget about post-industrial. This blue-collar ghost town is almost a case of post-humanity. The only people who still seem to live there are barflies and crooks. The sheriff is the worst of the latter, but our protagonist did not come for him. She is here to kill her long-absent father in director-screenwriter Chad Faust’s Girl, which opens today in select theaters, ahead of its Tuesday VOD release.

All the unnamed woman remembers of the man who abused her mother and abandoned them years ago are his axe-throwing lessons. That will come in handy. In fact, she even travels with a hatchet and intends to use. However, she is very put-out to learn someone has already killed her Pa, before she could. Perversely, she then sets out to find his murderer, but it would be safe to say the Sheriff is not much help—nor is his creepy brother, who calls himself “Charmer.”

In many ways,
Girl could be considered the grittiest, least glamorous western ever filmed. That grunginess is what makes it so distinctive. The nameless town feels palpably real—and really inhospitable. Faust’s surprises are not super-shocking, but they make for a dark, hyper-tense ride.

Bella Thorne drives it all, every step of the way, with what might be the best performance of her career. She is ferocious yet acutely vulnerable, but in a quiet, understated way. She is not superhuman, but she is a force to contend with. Mickey Rourke might be the grossest and most thuggish he has ever looked on camera, which suits the sheriff to a T. (It’s getting harder and harder to believe he is the same person who starred in
9½ Weeks.)

Faust himself is also spectacularly sleazy as Charmer. Just watching him makes you feel slimy and uncomfortable—that’s meant as a compliment in this context. Faust also gets some really terrific, highly memorable supporting performances from Glen Gould as the barkeep and Lanette Ware as Betty, his lushy customer with a secret. It is a small ensemble, but everyone has considerable texture of character.

Honestly, this is about as prickly and grimy as a film can get and still be entertaining. Faust has a great feel for the depressed and distressed milieu, but you have to give even more credit to Thorne. If she weren’t up to it, this film would be painful, but she totally comes through. Recommended for fans of old school indie thrillers,
Girl opens today (11/20) and hits VOD Tuesday (11/24).