Gender roles in White Bird in a Blizzard are easily definable and damnable. Women cook and clean and grow tired, bored and resentful, then rebel against the expectations placed upon them by weak men who lash out when such conventions are challenged. These tired archetypes are brought to life by the cloying characters in director Gregg Araki's pastel melodrama, which include a couple of miserable sobs (Christopher Meloni and Eva Green) who make their pubescent daughter Kat (Shailene Woodley) uncomfortable at every turn.
Set during the "fall / winter" of 1988 in small-town America, White Bird in a Blizzard kicks into gear when Kat's disoriented mother suddenly disappears. Most of the film is told from the teenager's perspective, immediately revealed to be a skewed representation of family and emotional connection since Kat is such jaded narrator. Herein lies Araki's point: The film bluntly looks at the way children shield themselves from recognizing their parents' personal lives, instead focusing on their own hothouse scandals to pass the time.
As the circumstances surrounding her mother's disappearance strangely fade into the background, Kat relishes the freedom that the circumstances have afforded her social life. She has an affair with one of the investigating policemen (Thomas Jane) simply because she can and grows increasingly tired of her pot-head boyfriend (Shiloh Fernandez), but her angst remains in the form of blurry dream sequences that feature bleached-out images of snowy locales drowning out all sense of life.
What's so infuriating about White Bird in a Blizzard —which opens Friday, Oct. 31, at the Ken Cinema—is its fabricated treatment of the teenage experience, which is conveyed as a wildly adventurous and conflicted odyssey disrupted by the goings on of those pesky adults. Nothing in this film rings true, except for Woodley's bold attempt to break out of the Young Adult genre by baring her breasts and cursing like a sailor.
Before I Go to Sleep : Nicole Kidman stars as woman suffering from extreme amnesia who must start every day by piecing together her memory. Mark Strong and Colin Firth battle for her affection in this thriller by Rowan Joffe.
Citizenfour : Laura Poitras' documentary about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden explores the abuses of national security in post-9/11 America. Screens through Nov. 6 at the Ken Cinema.
Laggies : Lynn Shelton's new romantic comedy stars Keira Knightley as an overeducated and underemployed 20-something searching for meaning in a world where adulthood is relative.
The Mystery of Happiness : Argentine director Daniel Burman's new dramedy follows two lifelong business partners who come to a crossroads in their relationship. Screens through Nov. 6 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Mystery of the Nile : Traverse the glorious history and legacy of the ancient Egyptians in this IMAX adventure that takes you beyond the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Nightcrawler : This scathing and unsettling portrait of modern news television stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a vulture scouring the Los Angeles streets for gory events.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya : Master Studio Ghibli animator Isao Takahata adapts the famous Japanese folk tale about a young sprite who's born in a stalk of bamboo and grows up to confront the power dynamics of the emperor.
White Bird in a Blizzard : Shailene Woodley stars as a teenage girl whose life is thrown into a tailspin when her mother (Eva Green) disappears one day out of the blue.
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Comic Warriors : Veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars work with comedy veterans to work through their traumatic experiences. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre at the Jewish Community Center on the Jacobs Family Campus.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show : Experience the crazed imaginings of this insane camp classic about a couple who wander upon the wrong house one dark and stormy night. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma and at midnight on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Ken Cinema.
Dial M For Murder 3-D : Ray Milland really doesn't like his wife in this thriller by Alfred Hitchcock, presented in three dimensions. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at Reading Town Square Cinemas in Clairemont.
Young Frankenstein : The grandson of Dr. Frankenstein inherits the family castle and tries to make a name for himself by experimenting on dead bodies. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, through Saturday, Nov. 1, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Phantom of the Opera : In the 1925 version of the classic story, disfigured Lon Chaney woos a young opera singer. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.
Psycho : Mother knows best, Norman. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Purgatorio : Rodrigo Reyes' provocative documentary repositions the conversation on immigration and border relations, using compelling characters and evocative images. Screens at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
2001: A Space Odyssey : Stanley Kubrick's pivotal sci-fi film must be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. Screens at 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2, at Arclight La Jolla.
Elsa & Fred : In this remake of a 2005 comedy, two seniors (Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer) find love and happiness late in life. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Zoolander : In this ridiculous comedy, Ben Stiller's clueless fashion designer is brainwashed to become an assassin. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Birdman : A burnt-out superhero actor (Michael Keaton) tries to mount a play on Broadway in order to prove his worth. It co-stars Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Andrea Riseborough.
The Blue Room : In this sensual French thriller from director Mathieu Amalric, lust turns to murder when a suburban husband is suspected of killing his lover. Ends Oct. 30 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
The Conformist : Mussolini's Italy becomes a stage for betrayal, desire and sexuality in Bernardo Bertolucci's masterpiece. Ends Oct. 30 at the Ken Cinema.
Dear White People : Four black students must deal with the ramifications of an ill-conceived theme party that turns their Ivy League campus into a hotbed for racial controversy.
Hiroshima Mon Amor : Alain Resnais' first film follows a French actor who's filming an anti-war film in Hiroshima and falls in love with a Japanese architect. Ends Oct. 30 at the Ken Cinema.
John Wick : After his dog is killed in a random break-in, a former hit man (Keanu Reeves) goes on the warpath looking for vengeance.
Ouija : Board game meet cinema.
Somos Mari Pepa : Young Mexican punk rockers try to make it big despite their changing interests as a group. Ends Oct. 30 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
St. Vincent : A misanthropic senior citizen (Bill Murray) befriends a young boy going through familial trouble, inevitably leading to redemption for all involved.
Fury : A surly tank commander (Brad Pitt) and his small crew fend off Nazis during the waning days of World War II.
Men, Women & Children : Jason Reitman's new ensemble drama starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Gardner looks at the way human interaction has changed in the Internet age. Ends Oct. 30 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
The Best of Me : Former high-school sweethearts fall in love again after they reunite many years later while visiting their small hometown.
The Book of Life : This animated fantasy follows a young man who's torn between fulfilling his family duties and following his heart. It features the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum.
The Good Lie : Three refuges from Sudan travel to America hoping to find a better life but instead encounter a vastly different world with new and unique obstacles.
Whiplash : A sadistic music teacher tortures a young drummer at a posh New York City conservatory.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day : A boy lives through a calamitous day, and the bad luck spreads to his other family members.
Dracula Untold : This will suck.
Kill the Messenger : An investigative reporter (Jeremy Renner) exposes the CIA's involvement in arming the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, only to find himself the victim of a smear campaign.
Pride : A newly minted LGBT group lends support to striking Welsh miners in this charming fish-out-of-water 1984-set dramedy from the United Kingdom.
The Judge : Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to his childhood home to defend his embittered father (Robert Duvall), the town's judge, who's been accused of murder.
Annabelle : The creepy murderous doll from The Conjuring gets its own prequel.
Gone Girl : David Fincher adapts Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel with Ben Affleck in the lead as the suspicious husband whose beautiful wife (Rosamund Pike) suddenly goes missing.
Left Behind : Nicolas Cage does his best Kirk Cameron in this reimagining of the famous rapture novels from Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
The Human Body : This amazing IMAX adventure goes inside the human body to explore the many dynamic changes that occur as we age. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Boxtrolls : An evil exterminator threatens a community of cave-dwelling trash collectors who've raised a young, orphaned boy as their own.
The Equalizer : Denzel Washington takes names and kicks ass in this remake of the 1980s television show.
My Old Lady : Kevin Kline plays an American who inherits an apartment in Paris that houses a mysterious resident. It co-stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith.
The Maze Runner : In this science-fiction film, a community of boys tries to escape an elaborate maze after being kidnapped and having their minds erased.
The Skeleton Twins : Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig play estranged twins who reunite after both escape death on the same day. Ends Oct. 23 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
This is Where I Leave You : Four grown siblings are forced to return home after their father passes away and states in his will that they must all live under the same roof for a week. It stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda.
The November Man : Pierce Brosnan returns to super-spy duty, this time as a top CIA assassin facing off against his best protégé.
Guardians of the Galaxy : American pilot Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his rowdy alien crew become objects of a manhunt after stealing a valuable orb that belongs to a diabolical space villain.
Hidden Universe : Blast off into the stratosphere with this documentary that uses real images captured from telescopes to examine the vast reaches of space. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Journey to the South Pacific : Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.