6 feb. 2015

White Bird in a Blizzard (5/10): An uneven film that unsuccessfully mixes genres.

“And just like that, my virginity disappeared. Just like my mother.”

I did not make that quote up; Shailene Woodley’s character (Kat Connors) actually says this while she narrates her life to a psychologist played by Angela Bassett. I wasn’t familiar with director Gregg Araki’s previous work, but I found this mysterious thriller problematic and at odds with itself. On the one hand it focuses on Kat’s sexual awakening, but on the other we are introduced with some cartoonish characters like Eva Green’s Eve Connors who seems to be playing a similar role as she did in 300 and Sin City. She gives a very campy performance, while Woodley is playing an authentic character. I just found the tone of the film very strange and didn’t buy into the mix of styles. Araki is playing with genre conventions here mixing the coming of age tale with other familiar thrillers, but it didn’t work for me because the dialogue at times is unbelievable and Araki seems to be leaving us false hints of what actually happened only to pull the rug under us with a twist at the end of the film. White Bird in a Blizzard is based on Laura Kasischke’s novel of the same name and was adapted by Araki himself. I’ve never read the novel so I don’t know if it has a similar tone, but the film felt surreal at times. There are some great looking scenes during Kat’s dream sequences, but there isn’t much more going on story wise. The narration is awful and it also brings down the film. 

It’s funny because the plot of this film is what I thought The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby would be like. A woman goes missing and the film would revolve around the mystery behind her disappearance. Kat (Shailene Woodley) narrates the events of her mother’s disappearance (Eva Green) claiming she had never been in love with her father, Brock (Christopher Meloni). Kat believes she simply got fed up with Brock and walked out on him. Her relationship with her mother hasn’t been great either so she doesn’t seem to mind her absence. She is comfortable with her current situation and doesn’t think she even needs to talk to a psychologist about it. When she was young her mother treated her like a pet, but once she got older she began to resent her for her youth and beauty. Kat meanwhile is in a relationship with her next door neighbor, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez), who is her first love. Lately he hasn’t seemed too interested in spending time with her, and when her mother goes missing, she and her father file a report with Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane) who she finds attractive despite the age difference. Kat is very open with her two best friends, Beth (Gabourey Sidibe) and  Mickey (Mark Indelicate) about her sexual life. There isn’t very much going on with the plot since Kat doesn’t think much about her mother’s mysterious disappearance and we know how she feels because she is narrating the story to her psychiatrist. Things change when a few years pass and Kat returns home from college. She discovers that her mother’s disappearance has affected her more than she realized and we begin to discover new elements about the mystery. This final act of the film plays out more as a traditional mystery movie and I was actually surprised with the final reveal. It is a shift of tone from what we had seen during the first half of the movie which played out as a coming of age sexual awakening tale. I can’t recommend White Bird in a Blizzard, but it does have its moments. Shailene Woodley delivers a very strong performance (but I still think she was better in The Descendants and The Spectacular Now) and she is a talented young actress. I wasn’t a fan of Eva Green’s campy performance, but I have read some praise. Other than Woodley’s performance I don’t think there is much more worth recommending here.


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