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White Bird in a Blizzard

Magnolia Home Entertainment // R // October 24, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]

Review by Jeff Nelson | posted September 25, 2014 | E-mail the Author

The coming-of-age story has been incredibly popular over recent years. After making their premiere at festivals, such as Sundance, general audiences get the chance to see the world from the perspective of an adolescent. Writer/director Gregg Araki brings Laura Kasischke's novel to the silver screen with an odd sense of style. While White Bird in a Blizzard most certainly has a plot that keeps it moving, it also features a coming-of-age story that explores the sexuality of a teenage girl. There are several subtle bits that truly hit all of the right notes, but the film's primary focus seems to lose itself along the way, leaving us in the picture's blizzard of chaos.

Taking place in 1988, young Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley) is experiencing an entirely different perspective of the world, as she becomes a woman. However, her life is thrown into chaos when her mother, Eve (Eva Green), suddenly disappears. This leaves Kat and her father (Christopher Meloni) in a state of confusion, although Kat believes that she can cope just fine without her depressed mother around.

White Bird in a Blizzard can most certainly be broken up into two sections. The first has to do with the disappearance of Eve Connor. While this is most certainly a large portion of the feature, it's largely there in order to support Kat's coming-of-age story that emerges from underneath it all. Writer/director Gregg Araki delivers a large amount of the content through the present in the 1988 time period, although he consistently utilizes flashbacks in order for us to try and put the puzzle pieces together. Why would Eve simply disappear? Did she leave, or did something happen to her? This is truly an interesting plot concept that keeps us on the edge of our seat, as the puzzle pieces slowly start to come together. This structure is an excellent way for the audience to truly understand the characters, and ultimately develop a connection with them, as we continue to learn more about them and how they're managing to cope with Eve's sudden disappearance.

Every other story element is simply present in order to support Kat's coming-of-age story, as she remains within the spotlight throughout the entire running time. Kat has had a truly odd childhood due to her mother's unhappiness, and this all is displayed through her behavior when Eve is nowhere to be found. Kat seems completely content with living alone with her father. Her emotions are heavily expressed throughout her narration, which is overlapped throughout her everyday life, as well as throughout her therapy sessions. This acts as disposition that sheds a lot of light on how this adolescent feels about the world around her. Over the course of the picture, her perspective drastically changes along with her level of maturity. It's truly fascinating to see an individual grow on an emotional level right in front of you, which is exactly what we get to witness here. Kat truly becomes a character that we can follow, and care deeply for, even if she's oblivious to the truth presented in front of her.

When these two parts come together, Araki provides us with a truly strange piece of cinema. This description can especially be seen through Kat's dreams, which are her conscious' way of showing her a variety of inner-thoughts. Smaller scenes, such as these, are perhaps one of the picture's greater strengths. Unfortunately, White Bird in a Blizzard comes crashing down through the picture's final act. There is such a huge amount of anticipation built-up throughout the film, only to be tarnished by a lackluster ending. While I didn't entirely predict where the story was going, it feels so completely out of nowhere. Rather than coming across as a fluid conclusion, we receive an ending that feels so incredibly forced. Other things can be done in order to make a motion picture different from others in its genre without completely betraying everything that has been crafted thus far.

There isn't a doubt that the performances are what make this film work. Shailene Woodley is absolutely phenomenal in the role of Kat Connor. She delivers an incredibly genuine performance that radiates off of the screen. Not only does she make us care for the character, but she has the ability to transforms what we're seeing on the screen into something special. Eva Green also contributed to my first statement as Eve Connor. Green most certainly enjoys playing the more over-the-top roles, and this is another one to add to the collection. She's absolutely engrossing on screen, as we just can't keep our eyes off of her crazy antics throughout the course of the flashbacks. Christopher Meloni presents another side of him as Kat's father, Brock Connor. This is a much quieter role than what we're used to seeing from him, as he continues to question what happened to his wife. Thomas Jane, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe, and Shiloh Fernandez are largely just faces in the crowd, as they aren't utilized to their full potential. Even so, Woodley, Green, and Meloni keep this feature together.

Writer/director Gregg Araki has a very distinct visual style that shows, especially through Kat's dream sequences. These are the scenes in which the title truly becomes clear. As she walks through a snow-filled landscape, the audience is drawn into this surreal dream that proves to be a window into Kat's consciousness. There are several brilliant visual nuances to be found throughout the running time, which truly make White Bird in a Blizzard a beautiful picture to watch. It's edited in such a unique way that transports us into what seems like another world. Even if you aren't entirely pulled in by the film's plot, Araki ensures that the visual design will keep you fascinated in Kat's coming-of-age story.

There are plenty of worthwhile pieces of material to find throughout White Bird in a Blizzard. This is a unique coming-of-age story that finds its place within a thriller. Kat Connor is a fascinating character that audiences will truly want to follow. However, Araki's screenplay becomes incredibly contrived along the way. Once it loses itself, it never quite manages to find its way back to the path upon which it started. If it weren't for Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, and Christopher Meloni's brilliant performances, this film would have truly fallen apart. Not only does the conclusion lack the imagination seen in the remainder of the picture, but it feels as if the filmmakers took the easy way out. There isn't a lot to love here, but a set of great performances and a worthwhile lead character save the picture. White Bird in a Blizzard is an intriguing coming-of-age story that gets lost within the storm. Rent it.

White Bird in a Blizzard will be released on iTunes/OnDemand on September 25, 2014 and in theaters on October 24, 2014.



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