VIFF 2014 | White Bird in a Blizzard

Posted by Dominic Dobrzensky & filed under Film, Film Festival, VIFF.

Shailene Woodley as Kat Connor. Credit: viff.org
Shailene Woodley as Kat Connor. Credit: viff.org

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White Bird in a Blizzard

Dir: Gregg Araki | Cinema of Our Time | USA | 2014 | 91 mins

Showtimes:
Sep 28  01:00 pm | International Village #9

Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley) is a confident, college-bound teenager who returns home from school one day to learn her mother, Eve (Eva Green) has disappeared with no indication as to why or where. Although Kat initiates the idea to go to the police, she remains both uninterested and nonchalant about her mother’s disappearance.

Director/Writer/Producer Gregg Araki’s script uses many tropes to quickly depict Kat’s sex ‘n drugs journey to awaken the truth. He can pat himself on the back for employing so many ideas along the way, but it can be cumbersome to keep track: some tangents come across as silly, while more interesting questions are left unexplored, the result being a curious tedium broken by unintentional comedy.

For instance, Kat’s father, Brock, played admirably by Christopher Meloni, is visibly distressed by his wife’s departure and becomes more convoluted as the story unwinds. It’s no fault of Meloni’s. At one point, Kat compares him to her rugged, stoner boyfriend, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez): as a “surface you scratch and there’s more surface”. But this contrasts with what the script demands of him: he is a wimp, a stud, a nice Dad willing to go for take-out, a party-pooper, and so on. Eve’s persona, for all the emotionally unhinged range on display by Green, remains chiefly a mystery, her unhappy ’50s homemaker lifestyle clashing with the recognizable ’80′s angst pop tunes on Kat’s walkman.

There are some oddly mesmerizing moments. Araki has a history of making realistic, dark and sexually-charged teen dramas. Blizzard shares similarities to Park Chan-wook’s murky, family drama, Stoker, which also mixes sexual awakening with morbid intrigue. However, there’s a consistency to that mood and narrative. Blizzard is all over the place.

Instead of choosing to focus the adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s work, Araki decides to throw too many devices into the narrative. It has flashbacks to explain immediate questions, flips through decades like tracks on a mixtape, slashes through a series of brightly-lit, slightly different dream sequences all set in a snowstorm that seems to indicate Kat’s underlying feelings but all of which we’re told by her psychiatrist (Angela Bassett) doesn’t mean anything, repeated meetups with her oddball, drinking buddies (Gabourey Sidibe and Mark Indelicato reduced to wafer-thin comic relief), a non-linear editing scheme and narration from Kat herself that probably isn’t reliable.

There’s minimal tension to this mystery, and that’s likely the intent. Why then, is it called White Bird in A Blizzard? Is to paint a messy, muted portrait of the mystery hiding out in the open? Were they afraid a metaphor wouldn’t work without a title? Or maybe because even the director/writer/producer Gregg Araki couldn’t decide what his film is trying to portray.

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