Saturday 4 April 2020

Movie Review: White Bird In A Blizzard (2014)

A mystery and psychological drama, White Bird In A Blizzard combines dysfunctional family issues with burgeoning lust cutting across generations.

In a small suburban town, the world of 17 year old Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley) is upended when her mother Eve (Eva Green) suddenly disappears. Kat's father Brock (Christopher Meloni) is equally stunned, while her stoner boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) makes matters worse by immediately losing interest in intimacy.

In flashbacks Kat recalls the loveless marriage between her parents, with Eve an emotionally suffocated stay-at-home mother sensing her life slipping away. She grows increasingly resentful as Kat blossoms into the woman she once was, and Eve starts to exhibit an uncomfortable sexual interest in Phil. Back in the present, Kat is dealing with her anguish by meeting with therapist Dr. Thaler (Angela Bassett) and planning a seduction of hunky Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane), who is investigating the disappearance case.

An independent production written, directed and co-produced by Gregg Araki, White Bird In A Blizzard boasts Shailene Woodley in fine form, but otherwise suffers from graceless execution. While the slow revelation of Eve's mystery and the accompanying interpersonal complexities swirling around Kat hold some interest, the emotions are often too close to the surface, and many scenes land with amateurish awkwardness. Phil's "I'm looking for the cat" poolside routine with Eve purring at him borders on a porn parody.

Which is unfortunate, because the film touches on several worthwhile themes. Eve (the name representing womanhood) is struggling with an unappreciated life spent serving her husband, the vitality of youth now a long lost memory. And Araki presents a relatively original take on the mother-daughter bond, here Eve descending into outright jealousy and embarking on a Mrs. Robinson quest to entrap Kat's boyfriend Phil. Meanwhile Kat is mimicking her mother's tendencies to seek sexual thrills across generations with Scieziesciez.

But most of the narrative arcs are eventually abandoned, and many other threads fall flat. The therapist sessions are an utter waste of Angela Bassett, Kat's high school friends suffer from wedged-in diversity, and the entire rushed third act, set two years after Eve's disappearance, emits a first draft stink. A late twist is inconsistent with everything preceding it but is nevertheless presented with dumbfounding dispassion.

White Bird In A Blizzard occasionally flutters but mostly disappears against the horizon.

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