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Review: White Bird in a Blizzard

There is something just a little offbeat about White Bird in a Blizzard, which seems typical for a Gregg Araki film. However, perhaps this biggest surprise is that it this film does not feel quite like a Gregg Araki film, until it does. When looked at in the context of the director’s oeuvre, the film starts to truly cohere.

The story is such that it seems like a throwback eighties movie, only it’s unlike any eighties film in its emotional honesty, (surprising, when considering its large amount of artifice).

Based on a novel by Laura Kasischke, White Bird in a Blizzard is a breakout role for Shailene Woodley as sullen but not impractical teen Kat Connor, (a false sounding name if ever there was one). It is a breakout because in many of her teen films, Woodley seems to inhabit characters that deal in reactions instead of direction, and it was refreshing to see take the lead in her relationship with dim-witted boy-next-door Phil, (Twilight’s Shiloh Fernandez, who has lines like “it’s a vicious circle”), in her interactions with hyper-masculine father Brock, (Christopher Meloni), and especially when dealing with hysterical mom Eve (Eva Green), who somehow are successful as a mother-daughter pairing, despite actually being only about ten years apart in age.

A further highlight is the control that Kat exerts over her friends Mickey and Beth (Ugly Betty’s Mark Indelicato, and Precious’s Gabourey Sidibe). Her friends are almost like a Greek chorus for Kat, and many of her imulsive actions appear to be based on a desire to preach to the chorus.

The film can either be seen as a teenager’s sexual awakening impacting the mystery at the core of the film, (what happens to Eve, as she simply disappears), or as the opposite, a mystery at the core of the film impacting a teenager’s sexual awakening, as nobody seems particularly interesting in what happened to Eve. Least of whom is Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane, essentially reprising his character from Hung), an older man who Kat pursues in order to try to seduce…and then to possibly figure out leads as to her mother’s whereabouts.

Perhaps White Bird in a Blizzard is about how a teenager’s sexual awakening and a mother’s disappearance being inextricably linked together, with the two becoming almost one clear path. Interestingly, the denouement takes place a couple of years later, with Kat returning home from university, and the relative resolution of one event helps sort out the resolution of the other.

White Bird in a Blizzard is an absolute must-see movie, though the ending initially does feel like a bit of trick, as Kat earlier provides contradictory evidence that does not support the conclusion. Other elements, like Angela Bassett as a psychiatrist seem to stall immediately, though they do help explain the metaphorical title. There is much to enjoy and appreciate about this film, though with its exaggerated colour, imaginings of Eva Green as a suburban American housewife and descent into some pretty uncomfortable scenarios, it is only the committed audience member that will have the courage to wander into the blizzard and still fly.

[star v=35]