Review: Not much to see in ‘White Bird in a Blizzard’

It’s a bit of a shock that a filmmaker who’s proved as bold and provocative as Gregg Araki (“Mysterious Skin,” “Kaboom”) could make a movie as flat and miscalculated as the coming-of-age mystery “White Bird in a Blizzard.” Writer-director Araki’s campy-clunky, crass-for-crass'-sake adaptation of the 1999 novel by Laura Kasischke needed a full rethink.

The film is also a tumble backward for “Divergent” and “The Fault in Our Stars” actress Shailene Woodley. Here she plays Kat, a hormonal, disaffected 17-year-old whose unstable mother, Eve (Eva Green), one day simply disappears, leaving Kat alone with her wimpy father, Brock (Christopher Meloni).

As Eve had become a horrid mother and a worse wife, her exit is no great loss to either Kat or Brock. That’s a fatal flaw for a would-be aftermath drama: If Eve’s family doesn’t much seem to care, why should we? In addition, an investigation headed by one Det. Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane) goes nowhere; so much for the procedural tension.


What’s left is Kat’s vapid world, one populated by her sexy, malaprop-prone neighbor boyfriend (Shiloh Fernandez), his blind (why?) mother (Dale Dickey), Kat’s cynical outsider pals (Gabourey Sidibe and Mark Indelicato, both misguided), a perfunctory shrink (Angela Bassett) and the dad-aged Scieziesciez, with whom Kat has a creepy fling.

The movie, which begins in 1988, eventually jumps ahead three years to find Kat as a college student, returning home to face the potential truth about her mother’s vanishing. But as the answers are nearly spelled out in neon, the final reveal, which includes an eye-roll provoking, “American Beauty"-like twist, lacks surprise.

An overuse of ain’t-Eve-nuts flashbacks and pretentious dream sequences further sinks this dreary, dimension-free outing.


“White Bird in a Blizzard.”

MPAA rating: R for sexual content, nudity, language, drug use.

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

Playing: At Landmark’s Nuart, West Los Angeles. Also on VOD.