Shailene Woodley, a young actress so engagingly real on camera that she can do no wrong, gets a lot wrong and a bad film out of her system with “White Bird in a Blizzard,” an overwrought coming-of-age mystery drama that is an embarrassment for most everyone involved.
As Kat, the heroine of Laura Kasischke’s heavy-breathing YA novel, Woodley strips and seduces an older man (Thomas Jane), keeps a beau her own age (Shiloh Fernandez) around for the sex and narrates her life with a blase lack of interest that undercuts the mystery the story is built on.
“I was 17 when my mother disappeared.”
Woodley’s Kat is all “flesh and blood and raging hormones.” But director Gregg “Mysterious Skin” Araki turns ex-Bond babe Eva Green, into some sort of Bette Davis vamp as the hysterical-mercurial mother that Kat doesn’t miss.
Mom is unstable on a good day. She brazenly flirts with Kat’s next-door-neighbor teen sex buddy Phil (Fernandez) and shows nothing but contempt for Kat’s wimpy pushover of a father (Christopher Meloni). Their marriage is “a long drink of water from a frozen fountain.” Green’s every testy, furious, can’t-hide-my-accent scene is laugh-out-loud awful.
Then there’s the cop Kat and her Dad go to to see about tracking down Mom. Thomas Jane (“The Punisher”) as Det. Scieziesciez (!?), is an unkempt 40something who looks like 50 miles of rough road, which apparently catches Kat’s eye. Must. Have. Him.
Kat confesses all to her obligatory gay BFF (Mark Indelicato) and overweight African American BFF (Gabourey Sidibe). When she goes to see a shrink (Angela Bassett), her narration is an insult to both performances. She “reminds me of an actress playing a therapist.”
Seriously, is the Kasischke novel this bad? Or is that just Araki’s obsession with the lurid and the sexual?
Because we start to wonder what DID happen to that mom, tipped by Kat’s white-on-white inside-a-snow-globe nightmares. Not that the film frets over this as it jumps back and forth through time.
Whatever its intent, “White Bird in a Blizzard” misuses most everybody involved, especially the dazzling young star of “The Descendants,””The Fault in Our Stars” and “Divergent.” The laughs, intentional and otherwise, don’t disguise the feeling that we’re watching the big screen equivalent of a young star’s nude selfie stolen from her cell phone.
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content/nudity, language and some drug use
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Thomas Jane, Shiloh Fernandez, Angela Bassett
Credits: Written and directed by Gregg Araki, based on the Laura Kasischke novel. A Magnolia release.
Running time: 1:36