White Bird in a Blizzard
Director: Gregg Araki
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Gabourey Sidibe
Running Time: 91 Min.
Year: 2014 Rating: R
Leading a trend called New Queer Cinema, Gregg Araki directs movies stylized by their queerness in every sense of the word’s many definition. They are brutally honest on teenage-angst, non-sequential, strange, and features gay sex and young woman’s firm breasts. All these motifs appear in his newest movie, “White Bird in a Blizzard,” a title that sounds common enough compared to his other titles like “Kaboom” and “Totally Fucked-up.” However, such motifs are all jumbled and fazed here as if their only function is to label the movie as Araki’s movie. Despite the supreme cast, supreme act, and supreme musical score, the movie fails in its most important aspect: the storytelling.
The year is 1988, and Kat Conner (amazing Shailene Woodley), high school girl in her blooming feminine beauty, struggles with her dysfunctional family. Her stranger than normal mother (Eva Green) and her dull father (Meloni) who masturbates in the basement holding a Hustler magazine (remember, it is 1988; moving-image porn was not as ubiquitous) are intruders, voyeurs, and freaks in Kat’s life. One day, her mother disappears without any word, and the film is more or less a mystery decoding what really did happen to Kat’s mother. Since Kat couldn’t care less about her mother, the shock is mellow in the beginning, but it grows on her as the movie progresses.
Maybe, it is not about unraveling that mystery because if it was, its ending is so tedious and clichéd that it wouldn’t even have received a grade of C. Rather, it pretends to be a character study of Kat Conner. Kat, beautiful as she is, likes to fuck guys and initiates all sex in the movie. But why such promiscuity? Is she leveling her angst toward her parents through such act? Why does his mother a freak although the film goes back to the past to show the happiness in her early stage of her marriage? Is it because she is intensely jealous of her daughter’s blooming beauty? Every important impetus for these character’s actions is taken for granted.
I like post-modern movies where no grand-narrative needs to pull everything together, but each vignette should still work to form a coherent whole, if not as a thematic element, then at least for the viewer’s understanding and perception of it as an aesthetic product. The great acting, music, and dreamlike-visuals seem superfluous under this narrative’s context.
For those who want to experience Araki’s movies, I highly recommend “Mysterious Skin,” which features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a male prostitute before he was as widely known as he is nowadays. The director definitely has his own auteurist method, but the common slippage with such auteurs is that when they fire-and-miss, they miss hard. By the way, the original sound track for this movie is awesome and brings out more emotions without visuals attached to it.
A scene starring both Woodley and Green: