‘White Bird in a Blizzard’ Review: Into the mind of a teen drama queen
Gregg Araki’s White Bird in the Blizzard, based on Laura Kasischke’s novel of the same title, seduces its audience with its central mystery of the sudden disappearance of a discontented suburban family woman.
The seduction is all good, even if a tad too predictable especially with all the films set in Middle America about dysfunctional families. What essentially sets Araki’s film apart from the rest is what happens after the seduction.
The key is in the narration
White Bird in a Blizzard only opens with the disappearance mystery, which only serves as the backdrop to Araki’s exploration of the teenage psyche. Its meat, however, is in the life of mystified high schooler Kat (Shailene Woodley, who superbly adds layers into a character that seems to be written from a stereotype) who narrates her post-disappearance experience, first as a sexually active teenager to a shrink, and second as a presumably wiser and more mature college student.
The narration is the key to understanding what Araki is set out to do. The film is less about the disappearing mother as it is about the selfish youth who thinks the world revolves around her.
Kat is a judicious storyteller. She breaks apart her story with both the precision of a brain surgeon and the flourish of a desperate poet. Through her words, we get to understand her life, her blossoming into a woman with needs and requirements that are beyond what her ambitionless boyfriend (Shiloh Fernandez) can provide her.
We witness what she has to bear because of the inexplicable mood swings of her histrionic mother (Eva Green, who deliciously channels the complete opposite of a Stepford Wife) and the insecurities of her father (Christopher Meloni).
Yet her narration is curiously only about her. It is defiantly about her own universe where she is the brave heroine, the ever-suffering victim, and the almighty savior, all at the same time.
There is a marked difference between her narrations as a teenager and her narrations as an adult. There is also a marked difference in how in a matter of years, she has learned to accept that the world does not revolve around her. Interestingly, this is also when her mother’s mysterious disappearance finds its long delayed closure.
By meticulously defining the drastic changes that happen in Kat through the manner she narrates her life, Araki stays true to the themes that he has obsessed over in most of his films like The Doom Generation (1995), Mysterious Skin (2004) and Kaboom (2010), which is the exploration of the self-contained world teenagers seem to live in.
Kat stands for the self-alienating teen who is too busy with the conflicts of growing up to acknowledge the realities of the world around her. Her comeuppance might have lacked the dramatic pull that is commonly reserved for wayward teens trapped in a socially relevant drama, but it nevertheless affects.
In Kat’s eyes, obviously tainted by how she obsesses about only herself, everything else is wrong. Her mother is an envious woman wasting away in a house she has learned to abhor. Her father is an emasculated failure. Her boyfriend is a tad idiotic whose only function is to satisfy her sexual curiosities. Her best friends revolve around her like moons revolve around a planet.
Set in a nameless suburb during the late ‘80s, White Bird in a Blizzard has that distinct look of a nightmarish daydream, with characters seemingly trapped in a time and space without exits. The ordinariness that Araki drapes his story with is haunting, creating an awkward normalcy to events and attitudes that are clearly unhinged.
Get past Araki’s seduction. This is not a murder mystery. It is an intriguing look into the mind of a teenage drama queen. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.