Girl, written, directed and starring Chad Faust (“Better Start Running”), is effective when it comes to mood and atmosphere. The problem, however, is that there isn’t enough substance to make Faust’s stylish choices mean something, so this thriller comes across as more empty that gratifying. It begins with the titular “Girl” (Bella Thorne, “The Babysitter: Killer Queen”) on a bus, headed to see her no-good abusive father, with the sole intention of killing him. Thorne — not exactly known for her range as an actress — does well here, parading around with a false bravado, only letting her vulnerability show when she discovers that someone beat her to the punch, and now she has a dead father, with no idea who did it or why.
As she heads back into town, eager to get some answers from the locals, including among others, prostitute Betty (Lanette Ware, “Anything for Jackson”), she is met with a constant refrain: To leave Golden County while she still can. Just when you think she might take this bit of advice, she runs into Charmer (Faust) — all you have to do is turn to his name to have an idea of what his character is like. Their interactions together make us feel a bit happy for Girl, since she seems to be a bit of a loner and a drifting persona despite her connection to her mother back home. Faust’s Charmer is really good at swindling us to let our guard down, and I have to say that his character is perhaps the most compelling part of the film.
Once, however, it is revealed who the killers of Girl’s father are, the more interesting facets of Girl just go downhill from there, because now there’s less investigative conversation and suspense, and more scenes with Girl either being subjected to violence or being threatened by violence. I mean heck, Mickey Rourke (“Berlin, I Love You”) always plays this kind of slime bag characters, so it didn’t really surprise me that he was involved somehow, even if he was cast as the sheriff. And while I fully understand Girl being compelled to find out who murdered her father (even though she was planning on doing the exact same thing to him), and the film does well in communicating the complexities there, we, the viewers, don’t really know her father, nor do we feel like we have to care about the murder mystery in any way, shape or form.
What Girl does establish is that Bella Thorne has it in her to take on more challenging roles. Before this, as she moved towards her post-Disney image, she took on roles that basically established her as the beautiful, sexy (and more often than not, mean) girl, so she never really got to stretch her acting range. Chad Faust also has a bright future ahead, be it in acting or directing. Considering this is his directorial debut he does manage to craft quite the visually-satisfying film even if the screenplay (Faust’s second) needed some additional tinkering.