You were a liberal arts major. You fell in love with a girl you barely knew. She had big, lachrymose eyes that were slightly sleepy from late nights with Foucault (or so you imagined). When you made her laugh, you couldn't tell if it was impatience or coquettishness that sent her hand on a mission to tuck her hair behind her ears. She had a downright deadly way with a summer dress, and she knew it. She was like Gilles Deleuze with nice gams: an opaque mystery that would have been infuriating had it not filled you with an uncontrollable desire to pierce through to essence and truth (and boobs).

Let's call her Ivy. That's the name Bradley Rust Gray gives her in The Exploding Girl, which is the definitive portrait of your dream girl from college. It is perfect, in a way, but only because Gray fails at everything he's actually trying to do. You can see, beneath the finished product, the film Gray wanted to make, and it certainly is not the shrine to undergraduate infatuation he ended up with.

Zoe Kazan, the ideal outcome of a cross-breeding experiment involving Zooey Deschanel and a chipmunk—your dream girl, basically—stars as Ivy, who is spending her summer vacation at home in NYC. She can't take baths without supervision because she has epilepsy, and she might drown if she has a fit. This is, of course, just the sort of condition you wished upon your crush—the chink in the armor that only you could hammer out. Oh, and by the way, you're in the movie. Your name is Al. You are played by Mark Rendall as a cute science geek who patiently waits for Ivy to break up with her boyfriend and notice the carefully tousled hair in her periphery.

You're not really Al, though. You are Bradley Rust Gray. You are a well-meaning writer-director who tried to make a quiet and dilatory character study about a confused and complicated college girl, but you somehow ended up making a creepily nostalgic love letter to every soul-crushingly cute and inscrutable young woman who inspired every sorta cute and totally scrutable young man to make films in order to seduce and glorify every unbearably cute and inscrutable young woman who inspired, etc., etc., etc. You are Jesse Eisenberg's character in Adventureland if he was a filmmaker, and you have some growing up to do. Until then, godspeed you young Werther, and thanks for the memories.



Opens Friday at the Hollywood Theatre.