WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD
Directed by Gregg Araki
Starring Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Gabourey Sidibe, Thomas Jane
Shailene Woodley is a force to be reckoned with. She has the sheer ability to bring every role to the same normalcy required. While it's safe to say she's become typecast as the everyday girl with something to say, it's a perfect fit. Unfortunately here it's in a movie that cannot find its identity, no matter how hard it tries.
Director Gregg Araki, who is most famously known for the eye-opening coming-of-age tale Mysterious Skin, offers an interesting take on White Bird in a Blizzard, based on the novel of the same name by Laura Kasischke. The first act offers an interesting look at suburban America in 1988 and a family's ebbs and flows, not too different than any normal American family. As the only child, Shailene Woodley's Kat is foul-mouthed, frisky, and so over her mom. Eva Green plays the mother, Eve, a lost portrait of a woman who has no drive for the human she's become. When she goes missing, the film takes a deeper look into what pain looks like to someone who doesn't actually regret or miss anything. The film can be a little crass in its approach to the subject, but honesty is always appreciated. The final act is somewhat predictable, but still moving in a way you wouldn't expect.
While the context of the story is at first interesting, and the look and feel of the film is something to be admired, the pacing of the movie itself seems to get lost in too many different genres. Is this a coming-of-age tale? Is this a drama? Is this a Nancy Drew mystery? What is this? It seems like Akari is more concerned with providing interesting moments instead of an overall interesting film.
The performances are what save the film, for the most part. Woodley is at her teenage best, bringing to mind other characters she's played to perfection in films like The Spectacular Now and The Fault in Our Stars. What seems to work for her can sometimes play against her, though, in that the character of Kat is a little too forward with profanity. It seems like a silly thing to critique, but it comes across almost too unnatural. And speaking of unnatural, Gabourey Sidibe is the film's greatest distraction. It's already hard to believe her being a high school student, but each scene she's in feels more like a high school play or youth group scene. One scene in particular has her sitting with a bottle of vodka. She makes it too obvious she's playing a high schooler who's drinking to even remotely let it seem natural. It's a little moment that sticks out like a sore thumb.
The film looks great and has some clever nods to the late '80s. The premise is interesting enough to keep you intrigued. And, Eva Green's performance harkens to the cinematic greats before her (someone has to give her a meaty, Oscar-bait role soon). White Bird in a Blizzard made strides at this year's Sundance and will do nothing more than continue to push Woodley up the ranks of young Hollywood's best talents.
Runtime: 91 minutes