From Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation, Mysterious Skin) comes this coming of age drama about a teenage girl’s relationship with her missing mother. 17 year old Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley) used to have a close relationship with her mother Eve (Eva Green), but they steadily grew more distant as Kat grew older and started to come into her own sexually. One day, Kat comes home and is told by her father Brock (Christopher Meloni) that Eve has disappeared. This causes Kat to reflect on her relationship with her mother and how it affect’s Kat’s development as a young woman.
The films of Gregg Araki have ranged from films with dark subject matter, such as The Doom Generation (1995) and Mysterious Skin (2004), to highly surreal comedies, such as Smiley Face (2007) and Kaboom (2010). White Bird in a Blizzard, based on the novel by Laura Kasischke, is closer to the the dramatic end of the spectrum, even though the film features a few surreal flourishes, particularly snowbound dream sequences by Kat, which is likely what gives White Bird in a Blizzard its title.
The story of White Bird in a Blizzard is highly reminiscent of Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, in how it’s built around narration by the main character and features some themes involving midlife crisis. However, in this case, the midlife crisis comes from Kat’s mother Eve, who becomes somewhat jealous of her daughter’s burgeoning sexuality, especially in light of her very stale marriage with Brock. Despite being one of the top billed actors in the film, Eva Green is seen entirely in flashbacks, as we see how Eve’s personality changes as she gets older and increasingly disgruntled at how her role in the household has been reduced to making dinner.
In contrast to Eve becoming disgruntled with middle-age, Kat begins coming into her own as a woman. This includes losing her virginity to her neighbour Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) and entering into a somewhat creepy affair with the much older Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane), who is the one investigating Kat’s mother’s disappearance. Having broken out earlier this year, in the young adult adaptations Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, it might be a little shocking for Shailene Woodley’s new fans to see her in a much more adult role. However, at the same time, it much more appealing seeing her in independent films like this and last year’s The Spectacular Now.
While White Bird in a Blizzard features some decent performances from Shailene Woodley and Eva Green, as a whole the film is merely OK. The plot involving Eve’s disappearance is ultimately just a way to springboard this story of Kat coming into her own as a woman. Other than a pretty decent soundtrack to match the late-1980s setting, there isn’t really all that much that makes White Bird in a Blizzard standout from similar-themed dramas, such as American Beauty.
White Bird in a Blizzard is an OK enough coming of age drama and that’s out it.7 | FAIR