DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (director/writer: Gregg Araki; screenwriter: based on the novel by Laura Kasischke; cinematographer: Sandra Valde-Hansen; music:  Robin Guthrie/Harold Budd; cast: Shailene Woodley (Kat Connors), Eva Green (Eve Connors), Christopher Meloni (Brock Connors), Shiloh Fernandez (Phil), Gabourey Sidibe (Beth), Thomas Jane (Detective Scieziesciez), Dale Dickey (Mrs. Hillman), Mark Indelicato (Mickey), Sheryl Lee (May), Angela Bassett (Dr. Thaler); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Gregg Araki/Pascal Caucheteux/Sébastien K. Lemercier/Alix Madigan-Yorkin; Magnolia Pictures; 2014-U.S./France-in English)

"White Bird in a Blizzard is based on the declamatory 1999 novel by Laura Kasischke, and is adapted to film in a more surreal way than the novel by the flamboyant Araki."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Auteur Gregg Araki ("Kaboom"/"Mysterious Skin"/"The Doom Generation") directs a subversive, tacky and uneven teen coming-of-age pic. While trying to get under the  skin of its young protagonists to see what makes their blood flow, it deliciously depicts teen angst and examines their sexual desires.

White Bird in a Blizzard is based on the declamatory 1999 novel by Laura Kasischke, and is adapted to film in a more surreal and clunky way than the novel by the flamboyant Araki. The book was inspired by a true story, that took stabs at guessing the reasons for a Midwest housewife’s sudden disappearance. It's set in the suburbs of Southern California, in 1988, and given a sunny film noir climate.

One day, the once overweight but now scintillating high school student, Kat Connors (Woodley), comes home from school to discover her mother Eve (Eve Green), someone she doesn't like much, having a nervous breakdown while waking up fully dressed on Kat's bed. We soon learn that Kat holds even a greater hatred for her weak, uptight father, Brock (Christopher Meloni), who is a lost soul living in a house full of independent-minded women. A few days later Eve vanishes without a trace from her dysfunctional household.

Though Eve's disappearance is not played up in the following story, it's never lost sight of. But the attention turns to the chain-smoking and seductively dressed Kat. Her life challenge is to find the proper way to be a woman, with no role models to help. Not getting enough sex from her stupid next door boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez), she finds sexual relief in banging the stud cop, Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane). She meets him because he's assigned to investigate her mom's disappearance. The naive Kat takes delight in giving her best friends (Gabourey Sidibe & Mark Indelicato) all the juicy details of her sex life with the father-figure older cop.

While the 17-year-old Kat tries to discover who she is through her sexual adventures, flashbacks occur of her at a younger age and how a poisonous relationship first developed between her and her demented mom. That no one in the family seems that concerned about Eve's disappearance, her disappearance oddly hovers over the story.

Araki is unable to maintain the energy needed for such a perverse story of a dysfunctional family to run its course, and runs further afoul when he uses too many pointless time killer therapy session scenes between Kat and her shrink (Angela Bassett) to hammer home Kat's psychological problems that were apparent from the get-go. I lost interest as the pic didn't seem to be going anywhere after its fruitful seductive setup.

Green, in her short screen time, keeps things hopping with an over-the-top campy performance. When she's not around, the pic stumbles onward with only mixed results.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2014       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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