White Bird In A Blizzard


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Shailene Woodley in White Bird In A Blizzard.
"Araki never digs deep enough, wasting the opportunity to expose her resentments." | Photo: Sabdra Valdehansen

Gregg Araki takes a distinct turn for the conventional in his latest film that's part satircal suburban melodrama and part coming of age tale, although his interest in the sex drive of the young and trippy colour schemes show no signs of abatement.

At its heart - and laying the voice-over on dubiously thickly - is Shailene Woodley as Kat, an almost 18-year-old trapped in the hell of 1988 suburbian boredom. "I was 17 when my mother disappeared" she tells us from the start, a statement we initially presume is intended in a symbolic way, given that we quickly learn that mum Eve's concerns are all about Eve - at least from Kat's perspective. Brittle and jaded after years of playing housewife to Brock (Christopher Meloni), Eva Green turns her Joan Crawford dial up to the max as she bitches her way through the day, taking out her resentments on her teenage daughter and flirting outrageously with any eligible man that strays her way.

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Then, one day, she vanishes. And nobody - least of all Kat - seems unduly concerned about it. The police are called and go through the motions but Kat is more interested in getting the much-older Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane) to take down her knickers than her details, especially since her nextdoor neighbour boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) no longer wants to have sex on demand.

Adapting from the novel by Laura Kasischke, Araki, like Kat, seems to mostly lose interest in the mystery surrounding Eve's disappearance in favour of exploring the coming of age aspect of the tale but this is a fragmented retelling, part John Waters, part teen confessional, feels muted once Eve has left the building. The maintenance of Kat's perspective, wilfully ignoring the wood because she wants to look at the trees, should provide psychological interest but Araki never digs deep enough, wasting the opportunity to expose her resentments.

A conversation with her best friends Beth (Gabourey Sibide) and Mickey (Mark Indelicato) - both giving the film some much-needed pep - hints at what might have been, as Beth says she has told Kat things but "she just didn't want to hear it". If only we, the audience, had heard more of this contradiction between Kat's viewpoint and that of others but Araki gives her too much sway. Dream sequences involving the blizzard of the title add little to the mix, save for helping to further telegraph the film's all-too-guessable ending. By the time the mystery is solved, we feel almost as stifled by suburbia as the characters and longing for the old, more experimental Araki to rev up the engine and bring down the neighbourhood.

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2015
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A teenager's life is thrown into turmoil when her mother disappears.

Director: Gregg Araki

Writer: Gregg Araki, based on the novel by Laura Kasischke

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Angela Bassett, Christopher Meloni, Gabourey Sidibe, Jacob Artist, Shiloh Fernandez, Dale Dickey, Sheryl Lee, Ava Acres, Mark Indelicato, Brenda Koo, Michael Patrick McGill, Colette Stone, Brandy Futch

Year: 2014

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: France

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