Thursday, October 9, 2014

Movie with Abe: White Bird in a Blizzard

White Bird in a Blizzard
Directed by Gregg Araki
Released October 10, 2014

In cinema, absent parents can make for very influential childhoods. Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley) reveals right away at the start of Gregg Araki’s new film that her mother Eve (Eva Green) vanished one day when she was a teenager. Kat’s story, which begins earlier with some flashbacks but springs forward from that moment, uses the memories she has of her mother to explain who Kat is and how she became that person both because of and in spite of her mother. Kat is certainly a strong character, but there’s something about this film’s overarching tone that doesn’t quite fit its admittedly compelling content.

Before she disappears, it’s not as if Eve is a normal mother. One scene illustrates the fact that she always wished for a dog rather than a daughter, as evidenced by the way that she treated a young Kat. Her hatred for her husband Brock (Christopher Meloni) is worn on her face, and he seems like nothing more than a poor sap who can’t muster up the confidence to stand up to a condescending, rude spouse who has given up on making their marriage romantic or even pleasant. Brock is peculiar too, and it’s not just his 80s hairstyle that makes him seem off-kilter.

Kat, on the other hand, is a perfectly ordinary teenager, one full of spunk, rebellious attitudes, and hormones. Her friendship with Gabourey Sidibe’s Beth and Mark Indelicato’s Mickey cements her as one of the misfits at school, bonded together as they criticize all those around them, including Kat’s neighbor and boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez), who doesn’t demonstrate much intelligence in their many interactions. Kat is a magnetic central character, unapologetic for the way she thinks and acts, literally expressed in sessions with a therapist (Angela Bassett) and in the way she speaks to both her parents.

Woodley has had a banner year with “Divergent” and “The Fault in our Stars,” and should be known to filmgoers for her breakout performances in “The Descendants” and “The Spectacular Now.” Here, she ditches her good girl nature and adds on a fantastic layer of snark to play a less angelic but equally watchable protagonist. Meloni and Green are both capable of playing strange when they need do, and Sidibe, Indelicato, and Thomas Jane, as a hunk cop who begins a relationship with Kat, are standouts from the ensemble. This cast helps make a worthwhile and interesting film, though its title, which references dreams that Kat has about what happened to her mother, isn’t fitting for a decent few chapters encased within a less stable novel.


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