Starring Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni and Shiloh Fernandez
Going by the synopsis, one might expect White Bird in a Blizzard to be a conventional, nostalgic eighties ‘Coming-of-rage’ film, which is fine. However, in the hands of a director like Gregg Araki a more focused and original approach is taken with great results.
Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley) is a sexually adventurous seventeen-year-old and has an odd relationship with her mother Eve Connor (Eva Green). However, one day when her mother suddenly disappears Kat realises she has to deal with her absence and becomes more traumatised at how much her mother’s disappearance emotionally effects her. Her oblivious boyfriend, submissive dad and supportive friends attempt to help her through a frustrating and mysterious period of her life that leads to some tragic secrets.
Araki again successfully challenges the pressure of gender roles dictated by society. From the very first scene the viewer may sense that White Bird in a Blizzard is in awe of iconic female images of the eighties. These include the look of Winona Ryder in Heathers or the violent treatment of women at the hands of men such as in Twin Peaks. Most of Araki’s female characters are not only abused by men but by each other as a cry for help for being ignored and doing what is thought of their stereotypical social roles, as opposed to what they want to do. This seems to be one of the many reasons Kat and her mother Eve clash. Whereas Eve comes from a time with a different perception of women were portrayed, Kat naturally rebels. Eve’s strange behaviour initially comes across as jealously, especially as she regularly refers to herself and her daughter collectively as ‘us’ as if the two are sisters or even the same person.
The male characters also suffer from similar psychological social conventions but react more subtly and eventually it becomes too much for them also. They either provide a satisfactory life without any excitement. Or are quite daring, edgy but emotionally distant. Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane) for example is everything Kat hilariously dreams of in a man, hairy, rough, older and muscle bound but she can hardly have an interesting conversation with him, he can only talk about the repulsive things he has witnessed on the force. Christopher Meloni in particular excels as the push over father that just wants to do what is best for his family even though that never seems like enough, therefore the closer he gets the more he feels he’s being pushed away by a wife that does not love him and a daughter that is confused by his persistent kindness when faced with such hostility.
Aesthetically the film is a real treat to look at, colours and patterns are purposely arranged to draw the viewer into this dream-like world of red polka dots and rainbow bright garments that overshadows the dark demons the characters are hiding. Araki is tearing away at the wholesome American lifestyle in a similar manner to David Lynch’s work in particular Twin Peaks. So it comes as no surprise when one of the original stars of the quirky Television show, Sheryl Lee, pops up for a small but worthwhile time.
Thankfully the tone is not always dark and melancholy as these devices are a mere blanket for all the whimsical and funny things that also take place in the film, such as the ridiculous stupidity of Kat’s boyfriend Phil who always feels the need to sabotage a well known phrase or two. The nostalgic throwback look, dark comedy, soundtrack and dialogue which are very reminiscent of a John Hughes film make this one of the best films of the year so far.