Skip to main content

Review: White Bird in a Blizzard


Seventeen is a sentence that most prisons couldn't beat in a Pepsi challenge. Hostility bubbles just under the surface with every interaction with parents. Relationships are developed on the fly with an acute awareness of the limited shelf-life. Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley) is similarly killing time until she graduates and can leave her home life behind.

Previously considered chubby by her mother, Eve (Eva Green), Kat has grown into a beautiful young woman on the cusp of age eighteen. Her burgeoning sexuality does not go unnoticed by her mother, frustrated by her own urges in an emotionally repressed household. Kat and Eve were close once, but as Kat aged out of childhood and into a teenager, Eve grew resentful. Here laid before her was all of the opportunities that passed her by after marrying Brock (Christopher Meloni). Eve acts increasingly bizarre dressing considerably less than her age and parading around drunk in front of Kat's boyfriend (Shiloh Fernandez). Then one day she simply disappears. Leaving no note or trace of her exit behind.

The absence of her mother should bother Kat, yet it doesn't. It comes mostly as a relief. Eve was only ever a pain, constantly lashing out at her husband and daughter for condemning her to this lifetime of making dinners and scrubbing windows. Her father wanders around lost in this haze, but Kat acts as if nothing has changed. If anything Eve's spontaneous abandonment just drives Kat to establish her sexual identity. Taking comfort in the arms of an older, more confident man (Thomas Jane). Rumors swirl around town and among Kat's closest friends (Gabourey Sidibe, Mark Indelicato), but Kat still shrugs her mother's absence off as whimsy.

Time passes and Kat begins her college career, though on an extended break at home she finds herself ready to confront the truth of what has happened. Araki plays hard and fast with the timeline switching from flashback to present day in exploring just how broken Kat's home was. Prompted by her psychiatrist (Angela Bassett), Kat faces hard questions about the past, rethinking her adolescence with new information at her disposal.

White Bird in a Blizzard sacrifices some depth in its character study of Kat in trying to preserve the mystery of what happened to her mother. Whether blocked by adolescent angst, or disillusion, Kat just isn't interested in finding out much about her mother's disappearance and it shows in the first two acts. Araki chooses to emphasize Woodley's performance as a teen dealing with a lot of complex issues. Kat's mother's disappearance affects her much more than she lets on and Woodley carefully underplays these moments, avoiding the me-first scene stealing that younger actors lean toward.

Woodley has evolved into quite the actor in her brief time in Hollywood. Kat is very different from the down-to-Earth characters from The Fault in Our Stairs and The Spectacular Now, more than willing to make all of those dumb mistake of those teenage years that aren't depicted in YA novels. Joining Woodley is a game veteran cast including Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Angela Bassett and Thomas Jane. With the exception of Green, a majority of the background players are underdeveloped, depending on the gravitas the recognizable character actors bring with them.

Eva Green had her own Hollywood cottage industry briefly in 2014, saving terrible films from themselves (300: Rise of an Empire, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For). The part of Eve lends itself to more scenery chewing, yet Green gets away with it. She carries a forced smile so long that when the genuine article appears it is almost disturbing to see. Araki also takes advantage of the multi-faceted Christopher Meloni, who too often is only allowed to play the stern authority figure.

White Bird in a Blizzard fights itself during its running time deciding whether it wants to be a portrait of a grieving teen or a murder mystery and the conflict occasionally leads to some lagging scenes. Fortunately, Woodley manages to pull it all off showcasing her arrival in the group of young actresses ready to make that next leap. Check out her next project, whatever it is, she's earned it.

Popular posts from this blog

The Dream Is Real

For my money there is nothing cooler than the idea of a city folding in on itself.

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Avengers

There are two movies about the Hulk and one that features the green monster as a major player. One was made in 2003 by an auteur, starring a little-known Aussie. Five years later The Incredible Hulk came out to the same tepid reaction as Ang Lee's Hulk did. This weekend, The Avengers made the Hulk as popular as he has been in a long time. So it comes down to this: Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk. Who will smash whom?

Round One: Acting
Edward Norton outshines Eric Bana as the dual persona of the meek Bruce Banner and the rage-induced Hulk. Eric Bana was given little to do but run and fight and often the audience was just waiting for him to transform. With the Incredible Hulk, Norton's Banner is fully fleshed-out and we are given a reason to care about him. Being allowed to go a little dark with Banner's scenes questioning what is left of his life provided emotional resonance to the character that Hulk lacked. Yet even with the capable performance that Norton gives there was something …