of movies based on YA tearjerkers and dystopian potboilers? Refreshingly, Laura
Kasischke writes novels for grown-ups. As for Gregg Araki, he often makes films
about teenagers that only adults are old enough to watch. It might seem like an
unlikely combination of sensibilities, but it mostly works in Araki’s
adaptation of White Bird in a Blizzard (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
is the late 1980s, but Eve Connor acts like she just walked out of a Douglas
Sirk movie. Rather than dying on the inside, the ostensibly perfect homemaker
makes her family miserable, particularly her husband, Brock. Their daughter Kat
tries to stay out of the fray, preferring to hang with her hipster outcast
friends and hook-up with Phil, her pseudo-boyfriend, who lives across the
street. Yet, she still notices her mother’s increasingly erratic behavior in
the days leading up to her mysterious disappearance.
in retrospect, sort like a sexually charged, had-I-only-known Mary Roberts
Rinehart novel, White Bird examines
the ways Kat Connor deals with her mother’s absence—a process that definitely
includes resentment and denial. Still, certain opportunities come with mystery,
such as her semi-regular trysts with the investigating officer, Det.
Scieziesciez. He has his own Nancy Grace-like theories regarding her mother’s
fate, but she does not want to hear them. Yet, when she returns from her first
semester of college, Connor suddenly starts to crave some closure.
White Bird is downright restrained
compared to Araki’s wickedly entertaining Kaboom
and most of his prior films, he is still working with familiar elements,
especially the horny teenagers. He also goes for broke with the third acts
twists that should satisfy his cult indie fanbase, but it is really a period
domestic mystery and works rather well in that context.
is hard to think of the late 1980s/early 1990s as a period setting, but Araki
and the design team capture the era’s look, texture, music, and zeitgeist quite
well. Connor’s frequently self-referential narration might take some viewers
out of the film, but fans will understand a Gregg Araki joint is the perfect
place for knowing sarcasm.
also has a perfect mouthpiece in Shailene Woodley. Forget about those love-struck
teens with cancer, this should be considered her breakout star-vehicle, because
she carries the film through sheer verve and attitude. Of course, Eva Green was
born to play a hot mess like Eve Connor and she delivers accordingly. Christopher
Meloni sneaks up on viewers quite efficaciously as the compliant but tightly
wound Brock Connor, but unfortunately, Shiloh Fernandez’s vacuous presence
becomes increasingly problematic for Phil from the block.
Instead of an over-the-top bacchanal, White Bird represents quite a richly realized
accomplishment of mise-en-scène. Somehow Araki maintains a vibe that is simultaneously
nostalgic and insidious, getting some suitably cagey work from his cast.
Recommended for fans of subversive mystery-thrillers, White Bird in a Blizzard opens this Friday (10/24) in New York at
the Landmark Sunshine.
Labels: Eva Green, Gregg Araki, Shailene Woodley