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White Bird in a Blizzard (2014)

Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/20/2015

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/2/2015

We've all been there -- A friend attempts to recount an event which you witnessed or in which you were involved...and they blow it. They start to tell the story and they get the details wrong or they tell it in the wrong order or, worst of all, they fail to capture the true spirit of the tale. You are faced with the choice of acting supportive, pretending to not know what they are talking about, or jumping in and taking over. Movies can elicit a similar response. A movie can have a good idea and do a bad job telling the story. As a viewer, we get very frustrated. This was my response to White Bird in a Blizzard.

White Bird in a Blizzard focuses on Kat Connor (Shailene Woodley), a teenage girl who is facing a challenging situation. Her mother, Eve (Eva Green), has disappeared. She was there in the morning and gone when Kat got home from school. Her father, Brock (Christopher Meloni), is distraught, and the police -- in the form of Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane) -- aren't much help. While her dad seems to sleepwalk through the situation, Kat attempts to lead a normal life. She spends time with her friends, Beth (Gabourey Sidibe) and Mickey (Mark Indelicato), but she notices that her boyfriend, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez), begins to pull away from her. As the days go on and there's no sign of her mom, Kat begins to reflect on the recent past and realizes that her mother had been acting very peculiar. Was something going on with her? And, will Kat ever recover from this?

If I were to sit you down and tell you the complete story of White Bird in a Blizzard, you would probably be impressed with it. While this isn't the most original movie ever made, it does offer an interesting premise. We've seen movies where adolescents have dealt with the death of a parent, or abandonment, but having a parent simply vanish is a somewhat unique approach. This creates an interesting response in Kat, as she's left to wonder what happened and with the feeling that part of her life is simply on hold. As the story, which spans nearly two years, progresses, we see how the behaviors of the various characters change. The finale presents us with several twists, one of which is admittedly shocking. The movie reinforces the notion that teenage years are hard enough, without your entire world being turned upside down.

But, Writer/Director Gregg Araki has created a film which simply doesn't do a good job of telling this story. Working from a novel by Laura Kasischke, the movie jumps back and forth in time, slowly revealing elements of the story. I don't know if this is how the novel is structured, but we've seen this gimmick used in movie before. And it should work here, but it simply doesn't. As Kat looks back on her recent past with her mother, she begins to remember slight details concerning her behavior. This adds to the narrative, but, as the same time, it feels hollow. We also see flashbacks from Eve's and Brock's perspective, but the movie never explains how this is happening, as Kat is the narrator. The film's oddest problem concerns Kat dreams about her mother, which don't make any sense, unless the movie is telling us that subconsciously Kat had an idea of what really happened.

The movie also stumbles with its characters. The bottom line is that Kat is extremely unlikable and therefore from the outset, it's tough to get behind this movie. Yes, teenaged girls have attitude, but Woodley gives Kat far too much of an "I'm smarter and better than everyone around me" air which makes her very off-putting. The way she acts out sexually also feels somewhat contrived. We are supposed to feel for Kat as she's lost her mother and she isn't close with her father, but there is simply no emotion here. I know that Araki is a veteran director, but this is the first of his film's which I've seen and he does an amazing job of making everything feel incredibly cold. Given the film's themes, was that his goal? Nonetheless, White Bird in a Blizzard squanders a great deal of potential. The movie wants to be a film noir in which a missing wife story is told from the perspective of a teenaged girl. However, the narrative stumbles and the lack of emotion really hurt the film. Again, the ending delivers a strong twist, but it's not enough to thaw out the rest of the film.

White Bird in a Blizzard also drops the ball on 80s fashions on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look good, especially the flashes of bright tones, and the image is never overly dark or bright, which is, as the snowy scenes could have easily gotten out of hand. The level of detail is very good and the depth is nice, most notably in the white scenes. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The music in a nightclub scene offers good surround and subwoofer effects. Also, the dream sequences provide some good effects. The stereo effects show good separation.

The White Bird in a Blizzard Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Gregg Araki and Shailene Woodley. The Disc contains 5 DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES which run about 10 minutes. There are no new characters or subplots here and some of these scenes play out in their entirety when there is only a minor change from the finished film. We get an "Interview with Actress Shailene Woodley" (6 minutes) and an "Interview with Director Gregg Araki" (8 minutes), both of whom discuss their experiences on and views of the film. "AXS TV: A Look at White Bird in a Blizzard" (3 minutes) plays like a trailer with inserts from the previous interviews. The final extra is the actual TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long