Director/Writer Chad Faust really knows what he’s doing in “Girl,” as he places a lot of the film’s weight on star Bella Thorne. Thorne is an underrated actress that’s been stuck in a lot of terrible movies, but when she’s paired with the right director, she gives performances like the one we see in “Girl.” Star Thorne carries what’s just an okay movie that feels like it aspires too eagerly to be held in the class of other backwoods dramas like 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.”
Bella Thorne stars as a young woman simply known as Girl, who seeks out the father that assaulted her mother when she was a kid. She’s learned through a letter that he’s threatening her disabled mother and she’s begun a journey to put an end to it and seek revenge with her hatchet. But things may not be as they seem. When she arrives in the small mud soaked town he lives in, she discovers something disturbing and becomes the target of two brothers who desperately want the cash her father has allegedly hidden somewhere on his property.
“Girl” is the classic neo-noir, it’s a mix of “Chinatown” and “Out of the Furnace,” set in the murky backwoods of rural America where every other building is either a general store of dimly lit bar. And it’s a movie that is kept afloat mainly thanks to star Thorne and the film’s somewhat fascinating energy. A dark and murky movie like “Girl” needs someone that can keep it moving in good momentum, and Thorne has that energy. She’s gorgeous, but also looks so defeated and worn down that she can barely muster up any motivation to find out what happened to her father. Like most neo-noirs, the main maguffin is the stash of money, which forces Girl to sink deeper in to the small town’s secrets.
Not to mention she has to cross some shady characters (Mickey Rourke is fun in a role he can play in his sleep). Sadly, a lot of it involves incest, inbreeding, and characters lurking in the shadows that may or not be looking for someone to stab in the back. As Girl, Thorne pulls of the inadvertent gumshoe well, and has to face the inherent truth beyond a life she thought she knew. What’s worse is that she also finds out the truth that destroys a life that she didn’t really like all that much, anyway. Faust isn’t keen on delivering a hopeful message about starting over, but dwells more on the destructive nature of secrets and how grudges can rot us from the inside out.
That said, the twist after twist (after twist) delivery becomes kind of stale during the final half. Faust seems to anxiously try to keep turning the screws for Girl, but it instead comes off as repetitive. I also wish we’d seen a lot more of Lanette Ware, whose character really worked well off of Thorne’s. All said, “Girl” is a solid mystery thriller that stumbles sometimes, but works thanks to the performance by the often overlooked Thorne.
Opening in select theaters on November 20th, before arriving on VOD platforms on November 24th.