Review: White Bird in a Blizzard
PLOT: In 1988, a rebellious teenage girls mother leaves her home, and seemingly disappears. With an all too comforting father and a frustrated boyfriend, she begins to dig herself deeper into a dark and complicated world surrounding the disappearance.
Gregg Araki has always been a unique filmmaker and one that has never strayed from his indie roots. Even with what is arguably his best film MYSTERIOUS SKIN featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it was a strange and cautionary tale about abuse that was far from your typical mainstream fare. With his latest, WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD, he features both Eva Green and Shailene Woodley and gives them unusual roles from what audiences may expect. The story of a young teenager in 1988 whose mother goes missing is a sometimes surreal yet almost always dark coming of age drama. And it may be Arakis most accessible film to date.
Shailene Woodley plays Kat Connor, a typical angst-ridden teen who cant quite connect with her seemingly despondent mother Eve (Eva Green). Then one day, her mom disappears with no trace of foul play nary a hint of where she may have gone off to. Kats father Brock (Christopher Meloni), while broken up about the situation, attempts to make their life as normal as possible. Yet for Kat, the normalcy of it all begins to affect everything about her life, including her relationship with her boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez). So unsatisfied with her existence, she attempts to seduce a detective (Thomas Jane) who is investigating the disappearance.
WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD certainly has a mysterious element, but this is the story of a girl growing up under unfortunate circumstances more so than a thriller. Throughout, Kat dreams of discovering her mother and the images are both strange and even beautiful. Yet all of it plays to her evolution as opposed to something that needs to be figured out. Even when the slightly predictable reveal comes of what exactly happened, the focus is on Kat and her emotional battle. In many ways, it makes the experience far more involving partially due to Woodleys impressive performance.
Shailene Woodley has proven to be quite the capable actress. Her Kat is a complex character who reveals many things about herself throughout this includes a surprising amount of nudity for the role. This is not a pristine portrait of an all-American teenage girl. She can be all things and it gives Woodley the chance to stretch herself as an actress. As her mother, Eva Green once again proves to be an incredible talent. WHITE BIRD explores her character in flashbacks, and what a character it is. Both actresses are marvelous here. Even Meloni and Fernandez, as the men in their lives, are quite good. It is especially exciting to see Mr. Meloni as a not so tough guy for those who are used to his television work on Oz and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
Casting has always been one of Arakis strong points and this is no exception. Certainly Kats best pals played by Gabourey Sidibe and Mark Indelicato feels a bit like stunt casting fresh off of My So-Called Life, it still works. Thomas Jane is terrific as a morally ambiguous detective and Twin Peaks own Laura Palmer Sheryl Lee is a nice choice for a new girlfriend for Melonis left behind dad. Also joining the cast is Sidibes American Horror Story co-star Angela Bassett as a doctor who is attempting to help the young Kat maneuver through her complicated issues.
Based on the novel by Laura Kasischke of the same name, Araki has created one of his most mature works to date. This dreamy little flick features his usual cinematic and sometimes bombastic - flair for staging. And while this isnt nearly as strange as his recent KABOOM and especially his 1995 cult flick THE DOOM GENERATION, it is still compelling and slightly disconcerting. WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD is a very pretty film with characters doing not so pretty things. Its strength lies with strong performances and dialogue. While certainly not for everybody, this surprising tale may open his work up to fans not ready for the out and out weird that his earlier films displayed.