Do a Shot: for each sex scene
Take a Drink: for each 80’s reference
Take a Drink: during the third act twist
Take a Drink: anytime Eva Green’s character takes one
Take a Drink: anytime Eva Green overacts
By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) –
Every few years or so an actor or actress comes out of seemingly nowhere to become the next big A-list talent, and it seems like the newest example of that is Shailene Woodley. After years of starring on the mediocre The Secret Life of an American Teenager, Woodley got her big screen debut with The Descendants, in which she displayed her talents in a great way in one of 2011’s best films. Since then, Woodley has gotten a boatload of roles, from being the love interest in the underrated Spectacular Now to starring in this summer’s breakout hit The Fault in Our Stars.
Woodley’s biggest claim to fame, though, has been staring in Divergent, which is the first chapter in what looks like the latest big YA series after its impressive box office performance. While it’s nice to achieve great financial success, Divergent’s success is a bit saddening due to its filming schedules taking up most of her time, with her not being involved with any other dramatic films in production. This makes White Bird in a Blizzard potentially her last non-franchise film for awhile, and if that’s the case, White Bird will likely not tide people over until then.
White Bird in a Blizzard follows a late 1980’s teenage girl Kat, whose life is flipped upside down when her mother disappears mysteriously one day.
White Bird is essentially Shailene Woodley’s film, as she is asked to carry it on her shoulders, which she is able to do. Woodley is great, capturing the essence of a teenage girl, while also showing an honest portrayal of a person dealing with such a traumatic circumstance. A lot of small details in her performance flesh out her character nicely, as she tries to hide her true feelings about her mom disappearing. It’s safe to say at this point that Woodley is a great actress, and she is certainly one to watch in the future.
Most of the supporting cast is also quite good. Christopher Meloni has been a very good character actor for quite some time, and does a solid job with his role here. Meloni as Kat’s dad is convincing in his supporting role, but his mannerisms lead the audience to sense some sort of mystery about him. Other actors such as Thomas Jane, Angela Bassett, and Gabourey Sidibe also do a solid job with their more minor roles in the film.
White Bird in a Blizzard is also one of the few films to capture a time period with a great deal of subtlety. All of the attire and styles very much fit the late 80’s to early 90’s time period the movie is set in. This leads to another one of the film’s strongest traits, which is how Gregg Araki’s script plays off the ideals of every-day suburbia in America, which is the idea in the film that I found by far the most interesting.
It’s also hard to deny how great the film looks. Gregg Araki has proved with his previous films already that he has a great eye for visuals, leading to the film having a very detailed look. Working with his long time cinematographer Sandra Valde-Hansen, the duo are able to get some great shots, perfectly capturing the mood and the character’s feelings in the moment in an artistic way.
While most of the cast is quite good, it seems like Eva Green was really miscast here. Green has made a career move recently playing over the top villain types, and has done a really great job of it. Here, Green is playing a mother who is mentally unstable, boozed up, and going out of control, and plays it way too over the top. A lot of these scenes that are supposed to be distressing to watch in a lot of ways just come off as silly, which ruins a lot of the film’s dramatic effect.
The pacing in general just seems off. The film spends most of its time in the 80’s era, so when the film changes in the final third to the 90’s it feels a bit jarring. As a whole, it seems like the film ponders too much in the late 80’s era with flashbacks of Kat’s mom, and instead should have put more focus on the closing moments of the film.
While Araki’s script has its fair share of highlights, the thriller element as a whole feels like it has too much of a role in the film. Woodley’s performance is so great, that putting less focus on her character and more focus on the storyline felt like a waste of Woodley. The concept of dealing with losing one’s mother is far more interesting then the actual reason for the mother disappearing.
The thriller plotline itself is extremely weak. Araki tries hard to develop some red herrings, but all of what happens seems very half-baked. For me, it seemed obvious from the early stages of the movie what exactly happened, and I think most people will be spot-on guessing what happens too.
There is one big twist in the final act, and it seems like it was just included to add a twist to the film. The ending itself feels very half-baked, as some of the characters do something that seems extremely out of character. It comes off as just kind of silly, and ends the film on an overall lame note.
White Bird in a Blizzard could have been an interesting character piece about people dealing with the loss of someone in their life, yet opts out too largely become a half-baked thriller. Woodley is great as usual, but the film around her does not meet her talents.