White Bird in a Blizzard is a part coming-of-age, part mystery thriller film. While some might think that this movie is spreading itself too thin between the two genres, I think it pulls it off. The script, adapted from Laura Kasischke’s 1999 novel of the same title, focuses on Kat, a 17-year-old girl who is going through her sexual awakening while simultaneously grappling with her mother’s puzzling disappearance. Writer/director Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin, Kaboom) does a great job of creating believable characters, mainly a teenage girl who distracts herself to distance herself from feeling, in a crazy story.
Speaking from a visual standpoint, White Bird in a Blizzard is gorgeous. There is a contrast between the sunlit haze illustrating the dreaminess of a time period past and the saturated pop-colors of the late 80's and early 90's. Not to mention, and I'll say this in a colloquial term because why not? The costumes are dope. Overall, Araki's talents as a director might not stand out the same way they did in Mysterious Skin, but his distinct style and technique are not without their merits.
It seems like Gregg Araki’s reputation as a director was enough to land some serious talent. Shailene Woodley, who plays Kat, appears deliberate in her decision to make this film a character study first, and a thriller second. The film is less about her mother's disappearance than it is about how she is able to internalize, cope, and grow from the whole ordeal. This is shown largely through dream sequences that are both creepy and beautiful.
Araki and Woodley worked well together in showing the nuances of a complex character, who is trying to hide just how complex she really is. This might not be Woodley's best role yet, but it's refreshing to see her playing someone closer to her own age (the film ends when she's in her early 20s).
Kat's boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) at first comes off as the lazy stoner, but Shiloh's portrayal of the character ends up being a lot smarter and self-aware than we are initially led to believe. Other strong performances were given by Gabourey Sidibe and Mark Indelicato, who play Kat's group of friends, but they're very much on the sidelines of this story.
While Woodley and Fernandez strongly exhibit the mass amount of talent in young Hollywood, the strongest performances came from the adults. Kat's mother Eve (Eva Green) feels stifled and trapped by the societal constraints that she grew up with. Green’s performance is haunting and really has to be seen to be believed. This is especially true considering she's only 33, but somehow passes as Woodley's mother! Throughout, she will waver on the thin line between hatred and pity for viewers.
Christopher Meloni demonstrates his broad acting range by playing Brock, Kat's dad and the family doormat. While it might seem foreign at first to see Meloni play such a far cry from his normal ass-kicking roles, his character is so different that you eventually lose focus of who he is being played by and you're lost in his story. Angela Basset and Thomas Jane both also have solid roles, but again, end up being secondary to the incredible characters Eve and Brock.
While I genuinely enjoyed the film, it is not without its flaws. I think the biggest one being that it's trying to do too much and ends up coming off clichéd at times. But by the time the credits roll, those moments slip from memory. The ending will leave viewers replaying the story from the beginning in their minds trying to make the pieces fit.
True, this isn't the best movie of 2014, but it definitely caught my attention as a uniquely classic story. If you’re a fan of Araki films or Indie movies in general, I’d suggest checking out White Bird in a Blizzard. The emotional ending alone is enough to make it a worthwhile watch.
[White Bird In A Blizzard](movie:753864) starts its limited release today (Oct 24)!