'White Reindeer' a not-so-jolly trip into suburban emptiness

2014-01-09T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T10:39:33Z 'White Reindeer' a not-so-jolly trip into suburban emptinessBy Robert Abele Los Angeles Times Arizona Daily Star
January 09, 2014 12:00 am  • 

For those considering a deep retreat from oppressive holiday cheer, there’s Zach Clark’s brittle indie confection “White Reindeer.”

Anna Margaret Hollyman stars as Suzanne, a chipper real estate agent and devoted wife to her weatherman husband. Suzanne is in good spirits with her beloved Yuletide season in full swing, until her spouse’s sudden murder — with nearly a month to go before Christmas — sends her into a grief-stricken limbo.

As Suzanne explores unearthed secrets about her husband, she seeks out and befriends a single-mom stripper (Laura Lemar-Goldsborough), overshops online, steals in-store, becomes sexually adventurous and partakes of controlled substances. (Plus, in a choice scene of only-within-families bad timing, she learns her parents are separating.)

Writer-director Clark’s commitment to a deadpan vibe of crisp comic kink amid eccentric, left-turn sorrow can sometimes feel condescending. But within this not-so-jolly trip into the detailed recesses of simmering suburban emptiness, Hollyman takes this woman’s barely controlled dignity on a quietly brave, revealing ride. She’s sturdy enough conveying Suzanne’s halting journey that by the end — once you’ve exhausted your last titter at a white bread life burnt at the edges — there’s genuinely unforced and unexpected emotion to Suzanne’s post-tragedy peace.

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