White Bird in a Blizzard

White Bird in a Blizzard

Director: Gregg Araki, Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni

Cast: Gregg Araki, Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni

     
 

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Seventeen-year-old Kat Connors is deeply shaken by the sudden disappearance of her mother and investigates the circumstances that led to the event during a break from college. ~ Tracie Cooper

Overview

Seventeen-year-old Kat Connors is deeply shaken by the sudden disappearance of her mother and investigates the circumstances that led to the event during a break from college. ~ Tracie Cooper

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Katrina "Kat" Connor (Shailene Woodley), the heroine of Gregg Araki's offbeat drama White Bird in a Blizzard, is a teenager from an abusive suburban home. We meet Kat in 1988 during her senior year of high school. Her dad, Brock (Christopher Meloni), is a meek, passive figure - a zero who never stands up for himself, swallowing whatever life hands him; her mom, Eve (Eva Green), is a wild-eyed nutcase who lapses into unbridled fits of rage - systematically humiliating Kat, attempting to seduce the young woman's boyfriends, and committing various other acts of lunacy. Despite her upbringing in this bell jar, Kat exhibits surprisingly sane and controlled behavior, though she makes a questionable decision by getting erotically involved with a cop (Thomas Jane) over twenty years her senior. Meanwhile, Eve vanishes from the house sans any explanation, and police searches of the area turn up empty-handed. Several years later, after Kat returns home on a break from college, circumstances prompt her to search for answers concerning her mom's whereabouts. This is an startling movie not because of its subject matter but because of its strange blend of tones. As a scribe, Araki adapted Laura Kasischke's 1999 sophomore novel of the same title. The Kasischke book told a straightforward chronicle with a great deal of dramatic gravitas. Araki doesn't easily lend himself to earnestness. He's instead prone to snide, sardonic irony - an off-kilter view of the world, with deliriously grotesque characters behaving in nutty ways, and played with an edge of noirish humor - think Hal Hartley meets Todd Solondz. A project with Kasischke and Araki's names on it therefore seems odd and unexpected; they sound like uneasy bedfellows, and when one imagines an Araki adaptation of White Bird, it's impossible not to envision an erratic, patchwork motion picture that veers uncomfortably between sarcasm and poignancy. Well, yes and no - this is and isn't true of the film. The first forty minutes or so of the movie work satisfactorily enough. Araki's tone here resembles the work of Australian director Shirley Barrett, especially her 1996 black comedy Love Serenade. As in the Barrett picture, Araki finds and elicits amusement by reveling in complete inanities and indignities of life, even in such minutiae as ludicrous names (Jane is Detective Scieziesciez) and the interior decor of a frumpy housewife who resides next door to the Connors - should we be surprised that her home resembles a time-capsule from 1973, when the homemaker is legally blind? And in another scene, Detective Scieziesciez tells Kat the most horrific calamity he has ever witnessed on the force - a 300 pound man who set himself on fire and took three days to melt because of his gargantuan weight - "just like a giant human candle." This is jet black humor reminiscent of Jan Wolkers' novel A Rose of Flesh, which also pulled laughs from bizarre, gory news stories that lay just on the other side of the implausibility line. You actually begin to feel a bit ashamed, because the humor is nasty and wicked, but as you experience it, you may end up laughing despite your good judgment. Several of the more sincere events, most of them in the picture's second half, also deliver a satisfying emotional impact of their own accord. Especially in the film's later scenes, Kat's heartbreaking confrontations with the dysfunction in the Connor family are assuredly not cued for guffaws; to Araki's credit, he plays such developments with a straight face and an even hand. He's abetted by spectacular work from Woodley, who divests herself of all interior reservations and lets her emotions fly; this is an unfettered, fearless performance, and it qualifies Woodley as one of our finest young actresses; she's even more impressive here than she was in The Spectacular Now, though like that flawed movie, this one seems unworthy of her dramatic range. Unfortunately, though, the two halves of the movie do eventually begin to clash vis-a-vis each other, and Araki never finds a satisfactory way to resolve this discord. As a result, the picture contains several sequences that feel tonally awkward, as in a flashback where a freakishly crazed Eve wanders into Kat's bedroom at the middle of the night and rips the covers off of the poor humiliated girl's nude body - ranting, raving, and foaming at the mouth. This should be devastating to witness but it isn't - Araki and Green push so far over the top that Green's orgiastic fit begins to mirror Faye Dunaway's tirades as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. As portrayed here, Eve doesn't come off as a credible person. She's a caricature - a cartoon character - but we can't dismiss the scene with jocularity either because the mother's actions are achingly sad and even teeter on the edge of sexual assault. When Kat experiences this horror, she isn't dismissive, as in "oh, my nutty mother" - she shrieks, sobs, and quakes with fear, like a young girl enduring the most traumatic sort of violation. Again: Araki needed to define and sculpt the tone of the scene more carefully and responsibly - he should have either encouraged Green to subdue her performance, thereby bringing the scene within the realm of the credible, or decreased the severity of the mother's actions and Kat's response, to leave the door wide open for irony. Incongruities such as the ones present in this scene - and, more broadly, between the tongue-in-cheek presentation in the early stages of the film and the more straight-faced, heartfelt developments in the latter - are what prevent the picture from taking off. Still, it isn't a conventional movie or in any way dull or boring; you're intrigued while you're watching it, which is more than one could say, for example, about Araki's disastrous Anna Faris stoner comedy, Smiley Face. What is onscreen works just well enough to divert and engage but not enough to be counted as a complete success.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/20/2015
UPC:
0876964008013
Original Release:
2014
Rating:
R
Source:
Magnolia
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Sound:
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound]
Time:
1:31:00
Sales rank:
14,068

Special Features

Commentary with director Gregg Araki And actress Shailene Woodley; Deleted and extended scenes; Interview with director Gregg Araki; Interview with actress Shailene Woodley; AXS TV: a look at White Bird In A Blizzard; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Shailene Woodley Kat Connor
Eva Green Eve Connor
Christopher Meloni Brock Connor
Thomas Jane Detective Scieziesciez
Gabourey Sidibe Beth
Sheryl Lee May
Angela Bassett Dr. Thaler
Dale Dickey Mrs. Hillman
Mark Indelicato Mickey
Shiloh Fernandez Phil
Jacob Artist Oliver
Jill Johnson Secretary
Brenda Koo Cindy
Michael McGill Aaron

Technical Credits
Gregg Araki Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Caity Birmingham Art Director
Helena Bowen Asst. Director
Harold Budd Score Composer
Pascal Caucheteux Producer
Mairi Chisholm Costumes/Costume Designer
Todd Fjelsted Production Designer
Bruce Gilbert Musical Direction/Supervision
Robin Guthrie Score Composer
Pavlina Hatoupis Producer
Sebastian Lemercier Producer
Alix Madigan Producer
Myles Nestel Associate Producer
Wendy O'Brien Casting
Julie Peyr Executive Producer
JB Popplewell Associate Producer
Sandra Valde-Hansen Cinematographer
Sean Vawter Associate Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- White Bird in a Blizzard
1. Mother [8:12]
2. Memory [5:03]
3. He Was Her Doormat [7:09]
4. Friends [11:23]
5. Detective [10:54]
6. Stop! [5:57]
7. Oliver [11:09]
8. I Think She's Dead [6:58]
9. Party's Over [:02]
10. Freezer [10:04]
11. Confessed [5:23]
12. Credits [6:27]
13. Chapter 13 [2:25]

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