Synopsis: Kat Connors is 17 years old when her perfect homemaker mother, Eve, a beautiful, enigmatic, and haunted woman, disappears – just as Kat is discovering and relishing her newfound sexuality. Having lived for so long in a stifled, emotionally repressed household, she barely registers her mother’s absence and certainly doesn’t blame her doormat of a father, Brock, for the loss. In fact, it’s almost a relief. But as time passes, Kat begins to come to grips with how deeply Eve’s disappearance has affected her. Returning home on a break from college, she finds herself confronted with the truth about her mother’s departure, and her own denial about the events surrounding it.
Release Date: October 24, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Mystery
Although he’s been making movies for nearly thirty years, director Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation, The Living End) has always appealed to younger, edgier audiences. His films tend to cater to the hip and queer crowds without pandering to them, and that trend continues in White Bird in a Blizzard.
White Bird in a Blizzard is the story of a teenaged girl named Kat Connor (Divergent‘s Shailene Woodley) who comes home from school one day to find that her mother, Eve (Eva Green from Sin City: A Dame To Kill For) has disappeared without a trace. Police have no leads, and everyone just assumes that Eve skipped town and doesn’t want to be found. Kat and her father, Brock (Christopher Meloni from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”), get on with their lives, accepting the fact that they will have to live without their mother and wife. Kat goes off to college, but learns some disturbing facts about her mother when she returns home for a visit. It is then that Kat realizes that there is more to her mother’s disappearance than anyone is telling her.
Gregg Araki based his screenplay for White Bird in a Blizzard on the novel of the same name by poet/author Laura Kasischke (The Life Before Her Eyes). Told creatively through a combination of flashbacks, dream sequences, verbal exposition, and real-time events, the story is pretty straightforward. The problem is that it’s a story that makes the audience wonder why it’s being told in the first place. The whole film is like a mystery that none of the characters have any vested interest in solving; there just doesn’t seem to be much of a point to it. The narrative consists mostly of corny characters acting awkwardly in silly situations. There’s a constant feeling that the movie isn’t going anywhere and, by the time it reaches its ending (which, despite feeling completely tacked on like a post-credits scene, is entirely too predictable to have been an afterthought), the viewer just wonders if they’ve missed something or if that’s the way the story was supposed to be told.
For his part, Araki’s vision is fairly consistent with his other work; White Bird in a Blizzard looks and feels like a Gregg Araki film. It’s got the nostalgic tone of an American middle class drama mixed with just a touch of dystopia. The requisite homosexual characters are included, although they are supporting players as opposed to the main attractions. There’s some clever dialogue, particularly coming from Kat’s boyfriend, Phil (Evil Dead‘s Shiloh Fernandez) – the guy is insightful and enlightened, but is too stupid to articulate it, mixing up his cliches by uttering phrases like “vicious circus.” Araki tosses in a handful of dream sequences where Kat almost finds her mother, and these scenes are fantastic to watch. Unfortunately, once Kat wakes up, the film goes back to the disjointed and inconsistent real world that has not been built quite as effectively as the dream world. There’s plenty of window dressing that makes the film look cool, but without a compelling story, it just falls flat. The movie deserves a lot of credit for trying but, in the end, White Bird in a Blizzard just doesn’t hold up.
Like most of Gregg Araki’s movies, the soundtrack to White Bird in a Blizzard helps to tell the story. The movie takes place between 1988 and 1991, and while it doesn’t feel like a period piece by any means, the musical selections remind the audience of its era. The soundtrack contains mostly moody, synth-driven post-punk songs by artists such as The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, Cocteau Twins, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. At first, the songs seem like just background music, but in many scenes they are revealed to be diegetic when a character takes off their headphones or turns down the volume on a stereo. For example, Kat and her friends listen to New Order’s “Temptation” as they hang out in her basement, the song actually providing the mood for their conversation. In another scene, Kat plays “Heartbreak Beat” by The Psychedelic Furs as she talks to her boyfriend, Phil, on the phone. A Siouxsie and the Banshees song plays in the club where Kat initially meets Phil. The songs that play on the soundtrack to White Bird in a Blizzard help set the tone for the movie, but they also function as a cool little time capsule of the late eighties/early nineties. It helps a lot that they’re all good tunes, too.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Gregg Araki
- Screenwriter(s): Gregg Araki
- Cast: Shailene Woodley (Kat Connor)Eva Green (Eve Connor)Angela Bassett (Dr. Thaler) Gabourey Sidibe (Beth)Christopher Meloni (Brock Connor)Shiloh Fernandez (Phil)
- Cinematographer: Sandra Valde-Hansen
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Harold Budd
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA