Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
‘Game Of Thrones’ Will Probably End After Season 8, But HBO Is Open To Prequels & More ‘Game Of Thrones’ Will Probably End After Season 8, But HBO Is Open To Prequels & More The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far Relativity Puts 'Jane Got A Gun' And More Up For Sale As They Fight Off Bankruptcy Relativity Puts 'Jane Got A Gun' And More Up For Sale As They Fight Off Bankruptcy Zack Snyder Says Batman Has A "Crisis Of Conscience" In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Plus New Pics Zack Snyder Says Batman Has A "Crisis Of Conscience" In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Plus New Pics Venice 2015 Line-Up: 'Equals' With Kristen Stewart, 'Beasts Of No Nation,' 'The Danish Girl,' More Venice 2015 Line-Up: 'Equals' With Kristen Stewart, 'Beasts Of No Nation,' 'The Danish Girl,' More Watch: 4-Minute Tribute To Lars von Trier's Masterful Film Work Watch: 4-Minute Tribute To Lars von Trier's Masterful Film Work New 'Deadpool' Images, Ryan Reynolds Distances Himself From 'X-Men: Origins' New 'Deadpool' Images, Ryan Reynolds Distances Himself From 'X-Men: Origins' TIFF Images: Emma Watson In 'Colonia,' Brie Larson In 'Room,' Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa' And More TIFF Images: Emma Watson In 'Colonia,' Brie Larson In 'Room,' Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa' And More Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence Watch: Blu-Ray Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Plus 11 New Clips From The Film Watch: Blu-Ray Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron' Plus 11 New Clips From The Film The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances Watch: New Trailer For 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Blu-ray Release Explores Who Killed The World Watch: New Trailer For 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Blu-ray Release Explores Who Killed The World Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence All The Songs In 'Paper Towns' Including Bon Iver, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, And More All The Songs In 'Paper Towns' Including Bon Iver, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 So Far The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far "It Was A Clusterfuck From Day One": 5 Things About Neill Blomkamp's Failed 'Halo' Movie "It Was A Clusterfuck From Day One": 5 Things About Neill Blomkamp's Failed 'Halo' Movie

Review: Oddball Holiday Dramedy 'White Reindeer' Both Unprecedented & Unrealistic

Photo of Katie Walsh By Katie Walsh | The Playlist December 5, 2013 at 4:07PM

The latest film from writer/director Zach Clark is the oddball unconventional Christmas dramedy (?) “White Reindeer,” starring Anna Margaret Hollyman as Suzanne, who’s just having one hell of a shitty December. Suzanne is a real estate agent in Virginia with a happy marriage to a local weatherman. His tragic death sets her off into a spiral of grief, manifesting itself in all manner of strange and uncharacteristic ways. That premise could be the basis for a rich story of personal growth and journeying through life’s ups and downs, but instead “White Reindeer” sort of just grinds to a halt and idles in the wild ways Suzanne deals with her husband’s death.
0
White Reindeer

The latest film from writer/director Zach Clark is the oddball unconventional Christmas dramedy (?) “White Reindeer,” starring Anna Margaret Hollyman as Suzanne, who’s just having one hell of a shitty December.  Suzanne is a real estate agent in Virginia with a happy marriage to a local weatherman. His tragic death sets her off into a spiral of grief, manifesting itself in all manner of strange and uncharacteristic ways. That premise could be the basis for a rich story of personal growth and journeying through life’s ups and downs, but instead “White Reindeer” sort of just grinds to a halt and idles in the wild ways Suzanne deals with her husband’s death.

It seems spoiler-y to mention, but one of the main aspects of the story is that Suzanne is informed her husband was having an affair with a black stripper named Autumn (real name Fantasia), who she seeks out, and this relationship forms the crux of the film. Her friendship with Autumn/Fantasia (Laura Lemar-Goldsborough) allows her to get outside of her own life for a minute, embracing a dark underground life of sex and dive bars and drugs. This notion of a frigid white yuppie using a lower class woman of color to find freedom or liberation or whatever, would be problematic, but Clark makes an honest effort at coloring in Autumn/Fantasia’s backstory, though it’s shaded in strokes that are too broad and border on stereotype, and her story isn’t fully executed. She doesn’t seem like a real person, but instead like a very useful person for this story.

Anna Margaret Hollyman in "White Reindeer."
IFC Anna Margaret Hollyman in "White Reindeer."

Hollyman, as the shocked and mourning Suzanne, sort of wanders through the film with a blank expression; unsure of who she is or how to act in every new scenario in which she finds herself. She’s either self-medicating with manic consumption of Christmas related products or with booze or drugs or sex. There’s a lot of sex in this movie, from Suzanne watching porn to politely participating in a swinger party, to the exposed bodies of the women of color who populate the strip club. It seems at times like there’s an attempt to wring some humor from the cognitive dissonance of a preppy, proper white lady in these environments, but if it’s supposed to be funny, it’s not. And after all the sucking and fucking, there just really seems to be no point to it all in the end. Has it helped her learn something new? Does she feel differently about herself or her relationship or intimacy? Does she feel like she got even her dead husband for cheating? It’s never clear.

Ultimately, Suzanne is done the most disservice in terms of her story and experience with grief while she attempts to connect with those who surround her. She isn’t just using them as a respite from her grief, as she helps out Autumn/Fantasia in a time of need (she also gifts her all of her Christmas junk). There’s also some beach daydreaming, an allusion to her dashed dreams of a future in Hawaii with her husband, which goes nowhere and does nothing for the story. Hollyman is eminently watchable on screen, and a compelling actress, but as Suzanne, she’s either operating at numb or manic and the performance doesn’t feel well-rounded or realistic.

White Reindeer

There’s a slow and measured (sometimes stilted) pace to the editing (also done by Clark) that is juxtaposed with near-seizure inducing montage during her partying moments. Its deadpan delivery lulls you into a stupor like Suzanne’s and then ratchets up to her stimulant-fuelled level. It brings us closer to her subjective experience, but it’s uneven and sometimes distracting. The cinematography and production design renders everything a desaturated and sad winter gray.

“White Reindeer” is compelling in many ways. It throws a lot at Suzanne and a lot at the viewer, and invites you to figure out just what this grieving, befuddled, and unpredictable woman is going to do. Unfortunately though, her story isn’t fully rendered or realistic, playing the same note for too long. She isn’t offered much personal growth, and there’s not much reason to root for her or truly empathize with her, often due to the deadpan tone of the piece. An unprecedented take on the holiday film, but not an entirely successful one. [C+]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates