“White Bird in a Blizzard” has a great hook – a woman (Eva Green) goes missing just as her daughter (Shailene Woodley) reaches her sexual awakening – but the mystery is the least interesting and the least succesful part of Gregg Araki’s latest. The eternal provocateur can’t help but be outrageous at least part of the time, and the scenes with Green as a sexually frustrated housewife at “Mommie Dearest”-pitched levels feels at odds with the more sincere material around it, not to mention occasionally undermine it. But “White Bird” has a major asset in Woodley, who further proves herself as one of the major talents of her generation.
As Kat, Woodley hits the same balance between brazen self-confidence and vulnerability that Joseph Gordon-Levitt did in Araki’s earlier “Mysterious Skin.” Kat is assertive, even demanding sexually, and in the hands of a different director her experiences (including seducing the detective investigating her mother’s disappearance) could have been sensationalistic. In the sex-positive Araki’s hands, it’s matter-of-fact, as much about self-discovery and exploration as it is about youthful confusion and attempts to escape everyday pain.
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Popular on IndieWire
Jason Bailey, Flavorwire
Joe Bendel, Libertas Film Magazine
Although “White Bird” is downright restrained compared to Araki’s wickedly entertaining “Kaboom” and most of his prior films, he is still working with familiar elements, especially the horny teenagers. He also goes for broke with the third acts twists that should satisfy his cult indie fanbase, but it is really a period domestic mystery and works rather well in that context. Read more.
Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club
The emphasis should have been squarely on her, and it’s Woodley’s typically forthright, heartfelt performance that keeps White Bird aloft. She’s not concerned with remaining likable at all times, which makes her a good match for a director like Araki; Kat’s occasional brattiness and self-destructive impulses are consistently more compelling than are the flashbacks to Mom doing her va-va-voom routine (Green, overripe, is acting in a different kind of Araki movie) or Meloni’s unconvincing histrionics. Read more.
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
Stephen Whitty, NJ.com
Shailene, who hasn’t disappointed since she made her feature-film debut in “The Descendants,” continues to hold our attention, making Kat angry, rebellious, insecure, self-destructive and all the other things that seem to go into modern teenage characters. Read more.