No Gregg Araki film is a waste of time, and White Bird in a Blizzard is no exception—with one caveat (more on that below). After making his reputation with a string of darkly humorous diversions, Araki arrived as a director of serious drama with 2004's Mysterious Skin. His new effort, an adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s novel, shares similar strengths, like an enchanting Robin Guthrie–Harold Budd score. Shailene Woodley plays Kat, a suburban teen with a malapropism-spouting boyfriend (Shilo Fernandez). One day, her mother, Eve (Eva Green), disappears without a trace. Her devastated father, Brock (Christopher Meloni), contacts a detective (Thomas Jane), with whom Kat has a fling, but Eve remains lost and Kat goes off to college. Flashbacks, meanwhile, reveal her mother as a woman jealous of her daughter and resentful of her husband. It’s an intriguing setup, and Araki has fun with the 1988–1990 timeline—Joy Division posters, This Mortal Coil T-shirts—but Green, only 11 years older than Woodley, struggles to provide the deeply felt performance that would put this film over the top. Watch it instead for Woodley’s turn as a sexually assertive, self-obsessed young woman who has more in common with her mother than she would care to admit. recommended

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