Shailene Woodley stars in Gregg Araki’s adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s novel White Bird In A Blizzard, a family drama with thriller undertones. Woodley anchors the film well with an impressive performance, while the stellar supporting cast of Eva Green, Christopher Meloni and Thomas Jane help improve the mediocre material.
White Bird In A Blizzard is told in flashback as Kat Connors (Woodley) recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her overbearing mother Eve (Green). Meloni plays her downtrodden father while Thomas Jane is the cop investigating the mysterious case.
Performances are the key to what makes White Bird In A Blizzard work. The film doesn’t have enough gravitas on a story level and I’m not sure if that stems from Kasischke’s novel or if it’s the fault of Araki’s screenplay. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot going on, it’s just that everything is given such brief screen time that it feels inconsequential. The film covers several years and the passage of time never really rings true on an a character or visual level. You believe what is happening because of the acting, not the script. Araki’s film features some interesting visual flourishes but it’s difficult to see why the film is set in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This tale could have been set in any era and if there’s a reason for this in Kasischke’s book, then it failed to make it to the screen here.
Shailene Woodley continues to show promise as a performer, building on the impressive work that she did in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. She should have a good career if she can resist the urge of Young Adult adaptations like The Fault In Our Stars and the Divergent franchise. Eva Green once again shows that she can deliver her own special brand of crazy and Thomas Jane adds a touch of machismo to the cop that has an affair with Kat.
White Bird In A Blizzard is a diverting drama with a few stand-out moments but it never engages in the way that it should. Sterling performances help in a big way but the cast can only do so much in getting across the essentials like plot and character.