Filmmaker Gregg Araki has made a career of dealing with teenage angst. While his latest effort, White Bird in a Blizzard, is his most adult film to date, he’s careful not to stray too far from familiar territory. Styled similarly to a 1950’s Douglas Sirk melodrama—the bright and colorful surface conceals the darkness of suburban life—the stiff dialogue is a means to reveal the disturbing reality that his characters are living in.
Part mystery, part coming-of-age story, based on a novel by Laura Kasischke, and adapted by Araki, the film is set in 1988. 17-year-old high school student Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley) comes home to find her mother (Eva Green), someone she doesn’t like very much, in the midst of a nervous breakdown. It soon becomes clear that she has even less respect for her for her weak, anxious father, Brock (Christopher Meloni), a lost soul living in a house of independent-minded women. When Eve disappears without a trace a few days later, it’s not particularly shocking given how much she hates her husband. Try as they might to recreate a 1950’s suburban utopia, the resentment in the Connors household always boils to the surface.
Kat is in the midst of a sexual awakening, using the dimwitted boy next door (Shiloh Fernandez) to satisfy her appetite. At the same time, her sexually frustrated mother regards her hunky looking husband as revolting. The Connors marital problems lead some to wonder just how involved Brock might be in Eve’s disappearance. Kate, not particularly concerned with her mother’s disappearance, has a sexual liaison with the detective (Thomas Jane) investigating the case. Kat revels in describing her carnal experiences to her best friends (Gabourey Sidibe and Mark Indelicato), who love hearing her stories.
Through a series of flashbacks, we come to learn that Kat used to be an overweight kid, and since shedding the pounds has realized her power over men. As Kat was budding into a sexual her marriage is sucking the life out of her. As we watch her become more erratic, it becomes even stranger that no one in Eve’s family seems particularly concerned about her disappearance.
While Araki does a good job exploring such issues as body image, and female sexuality, the story meanders too often—anyone hoping for a close retelling of Laura Kasischke’s novel will likely be disappointed—with meaningless therapy sessions involving Kat, and an out of left field twist.
Eva Green plays her part totally over-the-top, to the point of camp. The main reason to check out White Bird in a Blizzard is the performance of Shailene Woodley. She continues to show remarkable range, and it’s no wonder she one of the hottest young actresses in film today. It’s a role that may shock some of her fans primarily familiar with her work on the Secret Life of the American Teenager, but Woodley continues to make interesting choices as she transitions from teen to adult roles.
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Magnolia has provided White Bird in a Blizzard with a stunning transfer. Looking accurate to the source, the bright colors and flashbacks blend seamlessly to create a pleasing visual style. The image is clear throughout, and offers up a nice level of depth.
The DTS-HD 5.1 track serves the film quite well, providing clear dialogue. Back channels are subtle except when music becomes a part of things. At that point, the lossless mix immerses the viewer with its top-notch ’80s soundtrack.
English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Gregg Araki and Actress Shailene Woodley: Surprisingly informative, the two discuss the films characters, themes, and plot. They also touch on the shooting process, and share some behind-the-scenes stories.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 9:31) These are largely excised dream sequences, as well as an alternate title sequence.
- Interview with Actress Shailene Woodley (HD, 6:10) Woodley discusses how she used the original novel, and screenplay to fashion her portrayal of Kat.
- Interview with Writer/Director Gregg Araki (HD, 8:07) Araki discusses how much he had wanted to work with Shailene Woodley, and how their relationship evolved during filming.
- AXS TV: A Look at White Bird in a Blizzard (HD, 2:51) A trailer of sorts, composed of short interview segments.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:08)