Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

Review: Shailene Woodley Stars in Gregg Araki's 'White Bird in a Blizzard'

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood October 20, 2014 at 2:18PM

Gregg Araki can spin pop-colored, darkly funny suburban tragedies like few other directors working today, with 2004’s 'Mysterious Skin' as the formidable example. 'White Bird in a Blizzard,' while not matching the overall emotional swell of 'Mysterious Skin,' again finds Araki in top form. It opens Friday, October 24.
4
'White Bird in a Blizzard'
'White Bird in a Blizzard'

Based on Laura Kasischke’s novel of the same title, “White Bird” centers on teen Kat (Shailene Woodley), living a life of angst and parental disappointment in late 1980s suburbia.

When her unpredictable mother (Eva Green, giving off a major Bette Davis vibe) seemingly vanishes into thin air one day, and her doormat father (Christopher Meloni) is sent into a tailspin of despondency, Kat holds it together as best she can. She begins an affair with the middle-aged, macho detective assigned to her mother’s case, while halfheartedly attempting to stay in a relationship with her dopey boyfriend (Shiloh Fernandez), who seems to have lost sexual interest in her anyway.

Shailene Woodley in "White Bird in a Blizzard"
Magnolia Shailene Woodley in "White Bird in a Blizzard"

Because of the film’s enigmatic plot premise, Araki gets to go creepy (working with DP Sandra Valde-Hansen), with scenes that submerge into Kat’s dream life, where she wanders in a white-out blizzard while catching glimpses of her mother, a naked Ice Queen in poses alternately angelic and morbidly terrifying. These are set off against Kat's actual memories of her mother, told in flashback, that are rainbow-hued, belying the unrest at home.

French actress Green, an underused talent, has always had something crazed behind her large, popped eyes, a ferocious energy that serves her well here as a woman disappointed by life and content to rage against it until everyone in her wake is as miserable as she is. Woodley by this point has mastered playing a naturalistic teen (as seen in “The Descendants” and “The Spectacular Now”) and again puts that talent to good use. Meloni may be the standout, taking on a role that as written is difficult to pull off (the seemingly meek father with more than a few secrets to hide). The role could easily turn into a genre caricature, but it doesn’t: Meloni shifts with versatility between affability, sadness, and frustrated discontent so subtle its simmering goes unnoticed until a late, crucial moment.

The weakness in “White Bird” is in the plotting, which is predictable and often cliché-ridden. The talent behind the film and in front of the camera is strong enough to ignore this, for the most part, though Woodley’s voice-over narration running throughout the film threatens to ruin otherwise elegantly executed moments, and is too literary, seemingly ripped straight from the pages of the novel (having not read the novel I can’t know for sure).

The truest mark of Araki’s success with this very good if flawed film may be that its finale, while completely telegraphed, is still moving -- tear-jerking, even. Araki finds wells of emotion and meaning that may belong just to the film, and not the source material.

This article is related to: Reviews, Reviews, Sundance Film Festival, Gregg Araki, Shailene Woodley, Christopher Meloni, Eva Green, Festivals, White Bird in a Blizzard


E-Mail Updates