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Short summary

A teenager journeys through a series of foster homes after her mother goes to prison for committing a crime of passion.
Astrid Magnussen is a 15 year old girl, living in California. Her mother, Ingrid, is a beautiful, free-spirited poet. Their life, though unusual, is satisfying until one day, a man named Barry Kolker (that her mother refers to at first as "The goat man") comes into their lives, and Ingrid falls madly in love with him, only to have her heart broken, and her life ruined. For revenge, Ingrid murders Barry with the deadly poison of her favourite flower: The White Oleander. She is sent to prison for life, and Astrid has to go through foster home after foster home. Throughout nearly a decade she experiences forbidden love, religion, near-death experiences, drugs, starvation, and how it feels to be loved. But throughout these years, she keeps in touch with her mother via letters to prison. And while Ingrid's gift is to give Astrid the power to survive, Astrid's gift is to teach her Mother about love.

Trailers "Белый олеандр (2002)"

Alison Lohman wore a wig/was bald throughout the whole film, because she had just previously filmed a role as a cancer patient.

Many people in the film industry felt sure that Michelle Pfeiffer would receive an Oscar nomination for her turn as the murderous mother, but the film's failure at the box-office coupled with the aggressive marketing campaign for Чикaго (2002) actresses Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the same category, Pfeiffer failed to get a nomination.

In the film, Ingrid is an artist, while in the book she is a writer - showing an artist working was deemed more watchable than showing a writer writing.

The film in which Claire shows Astrid is 'The Return of the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' which Renee Zellweger actually starred in.

Melissa McCarthy appears briefly as the EMS person moving Astrid on a stretcher following the shooting at the foster home

Barbra Streisand was offered the chance to direct and play Ingrid.

Oleander is a poisonous plant that can kill animals and people.

Robin Wright and Alison Lohman worked together again on Beowulf.

Although the film version ends with Ingrid losing her appeal after refusing to let Astrid testify/lie for her, the novel's ending is slightly brighter (or darker, depending on how you feel about the mother). In the novel, Ingrid still chooses to let Astrid go, but her lawyer still manages to win her appeal anyway. The novel ends with Ingrid enjoying her newfound fame as the prison poet, while Astrid is torn between her desire to go live an easy life with her mother or remain a starving artist with her boyfriend Paul. Astrid chooses the latter, but the two of them remain psychically and emotionally linked as both continue their lives, free on different continents.

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Azago
    I have just one word: Wow.

    I saw this movie not expecting much and was completely blown away. The story and especially the acting was incredible! INCREDIBLE. I am now and forever will be a devoted Alison Lohman fan. I've never seen anyone take a character and make it more real than she did with Astrid. She made me cry more than once. It is amazing to watch it all the way through and then start it over again just to reaffirm the amazing transformation the character goes through from beginning to end. She not only looks different but her mannerisms are also so innocent and naive in the beginning. It's unbelievable. I have to say I am completely angry that her acting was not mentioned in any awards, nominations, or anything by Hollywood.

    All the acting was incredible. Robin Penn, Renee' Zellwegger, Michelle Pfieffer; all did outstanding! I've never hated Michelle Pfieffer before but she did an incredible job being someone you could truly be disgusted with. Also loved the job...and sorry to do this but the guy who was in Almost Famous...have no idea what his name is...did. The love story between Astrid and him is very sweet.

    As I said before I was very blown away by this movie. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone and hope it gets more popular as time goes on.
  • comment
    • Author: Isha
    The white oleander looks beautiful but its poison kills. Social service agencies take children from their abusive parents but place them in homes and institutions where violence reigns. Ingrid Magnussen (Michelle Pfeiffer) puts her daughter, Astrid (Alison Lohman), in the center of her artwork but pushes her to the perimeter of her reality. Life is a contradiction in which nothing is purely good or purely evil.

    White Oleander is a story about life's contradictions and the complexities of control, power, loneliness, betrayal, loyalty, and love. Janet Fitch won rave reviews in 2000 for this novel; screenwriter Mary Agnes Donoghue did not match Fitch's brilliance, but turned a weighty narrative-both in terms of content and size-into an admirable film blueprint.

    Director Peter Kosminsky and accomplished actresses Pfeiffer, Robin Wright Penn, Renée Zellweger, and newcomer Lohman used this blueprint to create a gripping film that both readers and nonreaders of the original text will appreciate.

    Pfeiffer is as cool and controlling as she is stunning even in prison garb, and her mastery of personality subtleties deserves acclaim. Audiences will hate the character because she is too smart, too manipulative, and too real.

    And anticipate an Oscar-worthy breakthrough performance from Lohman. She shines in her portrayal of a daughter who worships her mother until she realizes the superficial nature of her beauty and the cruelty of her heart. Ingrid Magnussen is not as perfect as she thinks, and her love is as poisonous as the white oleander.

    Stereotypes cheapen some of the film's richness and choices made to avoid an `R' rating sap some of its strength, but overall the film is as compelling as its sad and truthful characters.
  • comment
    • Author: Cetnan
    First of all, those guys out there who see the posters and advertising and assume this is some sappy chick flick, you couldn't be more wrong. What it is, is an extraordinarily moving piece of work. It's the kind of film that hits you right in the pit of your stomach. Personally, my mind has a tendancy to wander during movies, but with this one, I was glued to it right from the first frame to the last. It's been awhile since I found myself so touched by a movie.. and it reminds me of why I love movies in the first place. The performances here are top notch. Alison Lohman (Astrid), I never even heard of her before going to see this... but she tackles this difficult role like she has the experience of an award-winning veteran. I'm not even sure most of the big names could pull off this role like she did. Michelle Pfeiffer (Ingrid), who I was never a big fan of, is also excellent...she has a character who's so beautiful, yet so repulsive at the same time. The mother/daughter relationship her character has with Alison's is probably the most unconventional i've seen in a film, and that's what makes it so compelling. Renee Zellweger, as Clare, also gives her best performance here. Her relationship with Astrid is a beautiful but ultimately a tragedy one, mainly due to Clare's infatuation with her cheating husband Mark (Noah Wyle), but I won't give it away of course! ;)

    All I really have to say is, if you want to see a movie with strong performances throughout and an excellent story that will leave you fully satisified (and personally touched) when you leave the theatre, this one's for you. I highly reccomend it to everyone! One last thing I should say though... quite often when a movie comes out that's based on a book, the cliche seems to be for people to say "it wont be/wasnt as good as the book". Now, I never read the book to this movie... but the way I look at it, people need to judge the movie for the movie... not the book. If the directors were to follow the book word for word and detail for detail, we'd be left with a movie that would probably take days to watch. The advantage of a book is that you can have a complete knowledge of what the characters are feeling inside their head, which of course you can't always get in a movie unless they make it obvious or tell you how they're feeling truly. The advantage of a movie is that it brings it all to life... and let's you witness it for what it'd be like if you lived out the story. After all, if you were witnessing these actions in real life, you wouldn't have a book to help you understand what thoughts caused them. So, to all the people who go hating a movie before they even see it, just because it's based on a book... keep in mind that the book and movie are essentially two different things and that both have their advantages. I've honestly never seen a based-on-the-book movie where people were completely satisified with how it was translated to film. You can like both the book and movie separately, you know! :)

    My rating: 10 out of 10... HIGHLY RECCOMENDED!!!
  • comment
    • Author: Phain
    Strong performances by Lohman, Penn, Zellweger and especially Michelle Pfeiffer in a faithful adaptation of Janet Fitch's novel. Not hard to see why this one didn't attract more attention in theaters, since it lacks the ingredients that seem to characterize hit films nowadays -- such as action, violence, sex and stunning special effects. It's just a very moving story, well-crafted and well-acted. I'd recommend it to anyone.
  • comment
    • Author: Bradeya
    Although not a perfect film by any stretch (too many things happen without any seeming rationale behind them and some of the most important plot points are too vague), White Oleander still kept me intrigued, thanks mainly to the great performances by Pfeiffer (extraordinary in her restraint - brilliant characterization), Renee Zellweiger (achingly vulnerable here) and the extremely talented Alison Lohman (who's in nearly every scene and never hits a false note - and the fact that she sort of looks like Kirsten Dunst doesn't hurt either).

    A lot of critics are saying the film is too melodramatic or not 'weepy' enough, when in fact I found the movie's greatest strength (along with the performances) to be in how UNmelodramatic it is; there's a lot of restraint taken in the scenes that could have played like an afternoon soap, and I also appreciated how the film DIDN'T wind up as a tearjerker but rather took a grittier approach by portraying Astrid as an ultimate survivor in her sad and lonely journey toward independence.
  • comment
    • Author: Kelezel
    With no expectations of anything beyond the average I was aware as I viewed this film that it was a quality beyond most mainstream films currently available. We all left fairly stunned and stumbling into the daylight at the conclusion. Slowly devastatingly and utterly integral, at no point was the audience's intelligence insulted, the depth of characters, plot and script evenly executed with no room for anything but knowing we the audience were in for something special. Don't expect any black and white conclusions or answers, just the complexities of dynamics between kin and otherwise. . . brilliantly cast. I hope Michelle Pfieffer earns her first oscar here . . . comparable to American Beauty, I don't know why - but as poignant, beautiful, truthful and important. Beautiful soundtrack and to look at, pace perfect.
  • comment
    • Author: Dream
    Greetings again from the darkness. Based on the terrific novel of the same name, director Peter Kosminsky's film version of "White Oleander" is quite powerful, yet at times, hollow and choppy. Due to the intricate details of the book, this is somewhat expected, however, as filmgoers, we do not get the full impact of the three years in Astrid's life. Stunning performances by Michelle Pfeiffer and Alison Lohman give the film its power. Their scenes together are as painful for us as for them. Pfeiffer, the most beautiful convict one will ever encounter, shoots a couple of "evil eyes" that are pure genius. She is truly a cobra - don't get too close. I really think Alison Lohman's performance is one of the best I have seen in a while. Touching, heart-breaking, independent, distant and loving, she longs for someone to trust. When she does find her soul mate, she fights the urge, assuming they will somehow disappoint each other. The movie is told through the episodes of each of her foster homes and her struggles to make them work. Robin Wright ("The Princess Bride") plays a sexy, desparate born-again Christian, who mistrusts Astrid, but needs the state funds. Rene Zellweger is fantastic as the broken, no self esteem, wanna-be actress who is desperate for companionship and finds it in Astrid. This is another of Astrids heartbreaking relationships and nearly turns her against the world. Patrick Fugit ("Almost Famous") offers a nice turn as the one who provides the out for Astrid. Subtlety abounds in his performance. Don't miss Billy Connally as the recepient of the flower in the title. Keep an eye out for future films with Alison Lohman - she shows much of the fine acting abilities of Jena Malone. These two should be fun to watch for years.
  • comment
    • Author: Zeli
    "White Oleander," adapted from Janet Fitch's best-selling novel, is hard and edgy about the bond between single mother and daughter, letting us see the reality of a strong artistic mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) tyrannizing her gifted daughter (Alison Lohman). After murdering her lover, mom goes to prison and daughter goes on an odyssey of self discovery in foster families, reminiscent of Burt Lancaster's episodic journey in John Cheever's `The Swimmer.'

    In the first home, Robin Wright Penn's fundamental Christian presides over a frenetic household but reveals the sweet chaos of people who really love each other. In the next home, vulnerable actress, foster mom Renee Zellweger brings intimate caring to Lohman at an emotional price. Russian rag picker Svetlana Efremova brings hard-nosed business into Lohman's sights to complete an education of survival. Lohman finds loving understanding with Patrick Fugit, another artist in her life, but one without an agenda.

    It's been a while since I've seen as good a job at depicting the effects of a strong but flawed mother on her strong but impressionable daughter. `Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood' tried with Ellen Burstyn as mother and Sandra Bullock as daughter, but the film failed to engage beyond a few shouts and eccentric southerners. `Oleander' has a brilliant artist manipulator teaching her daughter to be independent, even cold, to survive, yet the daughter has a need to be loved that draws her to older men, Christianity, and rebellion. Her psychic search for her absent father serves only to exacerbate the matter.

    Pfeiffer does her best work here-- beautiful even in prison, she plays an ugly soul capable of the worst emotional tyranny over her sensitive, intelligent daughter, played with heart-breaking insight by Lohman. I was pleased with Kirsten Dunst last year in "crazy/beautiful." Just substitute Alison Lohman this year.
  • comment
    • Author: Nern
    This was an excellent movie, very emotional and moving.Michelle Pfeiffer looks more like she belongs in a beauty contest than in prison. She still did a good job with Ingrid, though. But it was Renee Zellweger who steals the show with her portrayal of Claire Richards, the suicidal foster mother. This is such a different role for her. It shows that she can act in dramas just as well as in comedies and thrillers. Allison Lohmann was very convincing in her role of Astrid, which I think this is her first big film.This is an excellent movie, but it is more of a chick flick than an 'everybody' movie. Also, don't watch this movie if you are in the mood to be cheered up lol, as although this is a great movie it is not a very happy one :)
  • comment
    • Author: salivan
    CAUTION: P0SSIBLE SPOILERS

    WHITE OLEANDER is just the kind of movie I really enjoy because it's about humanity and realistically presented, not about fake Brady Bunch stuff.

    Indeed, Alison Lohman stole the film from such vets as Michelle Pfieffer, Robin Wright and Renee Zellweger, as well as the fine supporting cast of Amy Aquino, Patrick Fugit, Cole Hauser and Noah Wyle. I first thought this was Kirsten Dunst, but I soon realized it wasn't, for though Lohman has Dunst's overall facial shape, she has deep set dark brown eyes that really speak volumes.

    Lohman plays Astrid Magnussen, daughter of Los Angeles artist Ingrid Magnussen (played by Pfieffer). It's not apparent yet at the beginning, but the mother/daughter relationship is strained at best, and Ingrid is clearly the one who has the last say in everything. She wants to control everything, including Astrid.

    When Ingrid murders her boyfriend Barry because he was cheating on her, Astrid is immediately remanded to the custody of CPS and placed in the foster care of a woman named Starr Thomas (Wright). It's apparent right away that THIS household is shaky, and that Astrid's life, already torn and uprooted, is about to get even more difficult. Starr is an ex-stripper, ex-cocaine addict who was been "born again" so naturally she is a bible-thumping holy roller, although she still loves to dress pretty racy and still smokes and has sex out of wedlock with her boyfriend Ray (Hauser). Her other foster daughter, Carolee, has nothing more than bitter contempt for Starr, and calls her a hippocrite more often than not. I thought Starr was fake the minute she came on screen, and my hat is off to Wright for such a believable portrayal of just another misguided holy roller who doesn't realize what true Christianity is supposed to be like. Ingrid tells Astrid that the whole "born again and baptized" thing is crap, and Astrid, knowing nothing else, harkens to her mother again.

    Astrid develops a crush on her foster "father" Ray, and although he knows it's wrong, he has feelings for her too. He has always been very kind to her and it all seemed genuine. I really believed he didn't plan to do what he did. But it happened, and in one horrible instant, a gun is fired and the entire household is shattered.

    Astrid finds herself in a facility for displaced foster kids, and gets beaten up by a bunch of chola girls. She uses a knife to chop off her lovely blonde hair and warns one of the girls that she will slit all their throats if they mess with her again. Astrid has had one too many assaults already, and you see the inner change happening. The one person who shows her any kindness at all is Paul (Fugit), who like Astrid and Ingrid, is an artist, although Ingrid immediately shoots holes in Astrid's faith and admiration for him. It is at this point where you begin to see Ingrid as one of the cruelest mothers since Mommie Dearest. Only she uses words, not concrete weapons.

    The next foster family to take in the girl is the Richards, actors who reside on the ocean and whose lives seem utterly perfect. Claire (Zellweger)is not as successful as her husband Mark (Wyle) but she seems very glad to stay home and she seems to have needed Astrid for a companion. All too soon, however, Mark appears to be a very cold, distant, annoyed hubby when he's home. His work on a TV show keeps him gone most of the time, but when he reunites with his wife, he doesn't seem at all pleased. When you look deeper, you see that Claire is extremely depressed over Mark being gone all the time, and that her acting career is pretty much a joke of B horror movies.

    When Ingrid summons Astrid and Claire for a visit, she wreaks more havok than ever by making Claire feel smaller than she already feels and by trying to shake Astrid's faith again. It really seems as though Ingrid wants Astrid as miserable as she is, because she's angry that she's been imprisoned.

    You see a flashback of Ingrid slashing somebody's clothing with a knife and you understand just how cold and cruel Ingrid really is. She is a snake, a reptile, a bloodsucker. Kudos to Michelle Pfieffer. I think this is the best work she's done in a long time.

    The inevitable happens, and Astrid is once again in the displaced minors' facility. For her next home, she selects a Russian woman who takes in homeless/parentless girls and puts them to work selling clothing at flea markets. She's not nearly as lovable as Claire was but not nearly phony as Starr was, so she's okay in Astrid's eyes.

    The final showdown is a great scene, where Astrid shocks Ingrid with her heavy, slutty makeup, tattoos, dyed hair, cigarettes and completely new personality. Astrid has transformed from a sweet, frightened, innocent child to a tough, jaded, sick of mother's BS woman and she gives Ingrid the ultimatum we've thought she deserved from day one: tell me the truth about everything you've done to hurt me, or rot in here.

    And Ingrid, for the first time in her selfish, cruel hateful existence, submits to Astrid's wishes.

    I haven't read the book yet, but I'm really planning to soon. As for the movie, I loved it.
  • comment
    • Author: Nirad
    Based on the same-titled novel by Janet Fitch, White Oleander tells the story of a teenage girl (Alison Lohman) struggling to survive in foster homes while her free-spirited mother (Michelle Phieffer) is in prison for having murdered her lover with the poisonous flower 'White Oleander'. It is a complex story of the relationship between a powerless girl and a loveless mother that, in spite of its cheesy sounding premise, manages to avoid all clichéd Hallmark moments and project quite a lot of heart in doing so.

    White Oleander sees Alison Lohman in a superbly bruised and fragile performance as Astrid Magnussen and we follow her through her struggles, both to bond with her mother and to survive in foster cares. All developments in her life feel natural and genuine, for example seeking the affirmation of an older man (Cole Hauser) in one of her foster homes, and putting herself into a strangely Lolita-like situation -- and this part is viciously well-handled and more effective than any other teen girl/older man jail bait situation I have ever seen.

    The film stars a wide variety of blondes, Michelle Phieffer, Alison Lohman, Robin Wright Penn and Renée Zellweger in different parts and they all feel appropriate. Phieiffer is proud, cold and heartless and this is juxtapositioned with Lohman's mildness and loving ways. White Oleander is a film that is indeed very sad, but does not purposely pull at the human race's collective heartstrings in every emotional scene and set-up. This way, in spite of its content, it never becomes sappy. It's not a film I would watch again however, and I would never recommend it to male viewers because it is very chick-oriented.

    7/10
  • comment
    • Author: Rollers from Abdun
    A girl born without a father and raised by a mother who is a real Machiavelli of love, has one day to face her own life through hell when her mother is sent to prison for the murder of her boy friend because he had to let her go on their last meeting because he had a date, which she of course could not accept. The girl knows all the horror there can be in the kind of institution she finds herself sent to or in the foster homes she ends up in. She is nothing but a substitute for something the foster parents do not have, or the dream that her presence is going to solve their own problems, or whatever. But the worst part is of course her mother who is, from behind the wings, pulling the strings that pretend to protect the girl whereas she is only treating her as a possession that has to be defended for future use. She thus more or less creates temptation or even death in those foster homes that could have helped her daughter. When this daughter finally realizes her mother's game it is by far too late and she can only sever the tie, the connection, the link, the bond. And it is then that she builds a compensation and pretends she finally understands that her mother loved her. When it becomes obvious the mother will not be granted an appeal or win the one she may be granted and that she will not be granted parole the daughter has to more or less make it sound as if she were responsible for her mother's crime, her mother's destitution and even her mother's continuing ordeal she deserves quite a lot. Such mothers are puppeteers with their children, daughters, and they turn their daughters into musketeers who are fighting with their own reflection in a mirror, with their own shadows, when it is not with their own mothers' shadows.

    Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
  • comment
    • Author: Tinavio
    White Oleander (2002)

    The harrowing journey of a teenage girl through a series of foster parent and foster home situations because her mother went to jail for murder. On the surface this is about survival in a hostile world, and one layer down it's about getting to know her mother and what a mother's love is all about. But even deeper we get to know what this adolescent girl is all about, with growing complexity, and growing interest and concern.

    There are two keys here, the layered and ever changing story, based on the bestseller by the same name, and the lead actress, Alison Lohman. Both Lohman and director Peter Kosminsky come out of television work, and for Lohman, this is her breakout film into Hollywood (she was in a Ridley Scott movie after this, and then played the young Jessica Lange character in the fabulous "Big Fish" a couple years later). Lohman makes her character really sympathetic but in a hardened way, never cloying, and never clichéd.

    But she has fabulous support along the way. Two of her foster mothers are given juicy roles that are played with conviction--Robin Wright Penn as a born again floozy, Renee Zelwegger as a needy but caring actress out of work--and her biological mother is played with icy slipperiness by Michelle Pfeiffer. That's a weirdly amazing cast. And well constructed, very serious. In all, the editing is usually pretty fast, the filming is visually smart without being overly seductive, and the writing (and screen writing) is sharp as an Xacto knife.

    All the while, watching and being impressed, you will also realize it's "just a movie." You can feel the presence of the film world, a glitzing up of characters, an unavoidable pandering to clichés to make it look and feel pretty. I don't mean that a hardhitting drama about the tragedy of a young girl's life has to be gritty and truthful and meaningful--but that was a possibility. And you can see how this film might have been something intensely moving without resorting to filmmaking tearjerker tricks (like the repeated glances through the windows near the end) or a bizarre deal-making finale.

    Reservations aside, I found myself more absorbed with each scene. A nice surprise.
  • comment
    • Author: Unnis
    Since the birth of Hollywood, countless films have aspired to dispel the myths surrounding the city of lights, cameras, and action. Films like 1950's "Sunset Boulevard" and 1991's "Bugsy" have juxtaposed palm trees, sunshine, and mansions with murder, jealousy, and madness. These films look pretty and bright, but they showcase the darkest shades of human nature. With his adaptation of Janet Fitch's novel "White Oleander," Peter Kosminsky tries to join the ranks of such Hollywood demystifiers as Billy Wilder and Robert Altman. On that front, he succeeds only marginally. However, on other fronts, he accomplishes quite a bit.

    When her mother goes to prison for a violent act of vengeance, young Astrid, the protagonist of "White Oleander," floats from foster family to foster family. Due in part to the efforts of her conniving mother Ingrid, Astrid cannot seem to settle down in any one place; conflict always strikes. As time goes by, innocent Astrid must confront the cruelest of circumstances, again and again. Her foster mothers have strikingly different characteristics, but no one of them is what she seems. From her beautiful but selfish mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) to the allegedly "saved" but jealous Starr (Robin Wright) to the kindly but ill-equipped Claire (Renee Zellweger), Alison Lohman's Astrid seems to have nowhere safe to turn.

    The film's poster says almost all that needs to be said about the plot and theme of "White Oleander." The poster displays the faces of the four leads; all four are blonde, all four look beautiful, and each face seems to meld into the next. While beauty resides, an eeriness pervades the image; everything looks a little too perfect. As it happens, it is. Each face hides some tragic truth that will guide the flow of Astrid's young life. Like the shining city in which the film takes place, the leading ladies of "White Oleander" are externally pretty but internally dark and unstable. This is ail very well, but we've seen it before, done better, in other films.

    The larger arc of Astrid's character comes across brilliantly, but the structure moves in episodic fashion, which prevents the film from having a true climax. Moreover, the movie's supposed payoff, an imminent confrontation between Astrid and Ingrid, comes across as simply a rehash of what the audience already knows. The film seems too desperate at times to make its point; it even resorts to wistful narration that, while softly spoken, still manages to hit the viewer over the head. Even some of the shots in the film try so hard to show eerie beauty that they come across as hackneyed and heavy-handed. Still, "White Oleander" offers up a lot of greatness in other areas.

    All four "leading" performances work brilliantly. Alison Lohman has a great understanding of her character, and thus manages to play every one of her emotional and physical states with conviction. While not given much screen time to flex her always exciting acting muscles, Robin Wright fleshes out her Bible-thumping mother with just enough humanity to make her believable; the character stands as a bit of a stereotype, but Wright at least gives it emotional resonance. Even better is Zellweger as Claire. She communicates sweetness and quiet instability with shocking humor and grace; just as Astrid loves and admires her, we do. All things considered, though, Michelle Pfeiffer gives the performance of the film. As Ingrid, she is ferocious. An actress who rarely resorts to theatricality for her roles, Pfeiffer plays every scene so true to character; she is truly scary.

    In the end, "White Oleander" moves fairly quickly, although not very subtly, towards a disappointing finale. It will not be remembered for its not-so-groundbreaking plot, but it should be remembered for its brilliant performances. Where the film sometimes fails to show the whitewashed grime of its city, the actresses compellingly render the whitewashed grime of humanity.
  • comment
    • Author: Dakora
    Michelle Pfeifer sizzles as Ingrid, a hard-to-put-into-a-single-sentence type woman raising her daughter Astrid alone in Los Angeles, when the world as they know it is forever obstructed as love-in-disguise walks in. This obstruction is not Ingrid's manners, mannerisms, insanity nor is it the jail sentence she gets for murder, the obstruction in question here is her lover, played annoyingly perfect by Billy Connolly, and let me just say that for the life of me, I don't know when she fell for him. She was perfect without him. While she is in jail, Ingrid's character revisits us once more in the outside world in form of the lovely Renee Zellwegger but at least we see why "she" fell for Noah Wyle (who plays her actor husband). Anyways, The film is about Ingrid's relationship with her daughter Astrid and how Astrid's life changes from age 12 through 20 while her mother is in jail. The actress who plays Astrid is phenomenal in this role and Pfeiffer is incredibly accolade worthy as fiery Ingrid, the true white oleander! Two very enthusiastic thumbs up! :D
  • comment
    • Author: Manazar
    I found this film to be very compelling. I have seen others comment that scenes were abrupt. I also feel this way. I had, however, read the book before seeing the movie, and there are several scenes left out or severely shortened, such as the sexual relationship between Astrid and her first foster mother's live in boyfriend. I think that leaving topics,such as this,out helped to contribute to the mood of the film by making it less shocking than it would have been,to see the 2 together. But I also feel the absence of these plot angles leads to resolutions that don't entirely make sense to someone who hasn't read the book.Overall,though,this film is beautiful. It truly represents what good things can happen despite the emotional threshold being pushed to its limits time and again. Great performances by the entire cast.I recommend you check out the girl who plays Astrid in another movie called Match-stick men, she is equally astounding.
  • comment
    • Author: Iesha
    When I first saw commercials and trailers for this, I thought this was going to be a suspense thriller because it has something to do with murder, and such a classic type of murder too. Unexpected. But as I watched it, it proved me wrong, especially the intro of it, but when I first saw it, I didn't know that was it, the movie I saw in the commercial, and it surprised me! This is what made me want to sit to watch this movie. It is basically a young woman who is arrested, and her daughter has to move form home to home, and visits her mother in prison, telling her the experiences she had, in which her mother contradicts, and as she continues her mother still says how she should really be instead of following what she has learned: love, friendship, belief in God, and as she hears this, she realizes her mother won't let her go, all she ever says are things that describes herself and not anyone else. So she decides to tell her what love really is, and find out about this guy she was involved with. It is typically about a disillusioned mother who has become cynical about the outside world after she's been heart broken, and now is brought to prison after she murders the one who wronged her, and her daughter has to be somewhere else. I really enjoyed it, and it did made me feel a bit sad, and made me sympathize the characters in it, I recommend it to fans of Michelle Pfeiffer and those who enjoy dramas, and those who find other soaps tedious, this is for you, as for me, I give it an excellent 10! Renee Zellweger is in this too, be sure to spot her.
  • comment
    • Author: Grotilar
    Astrid is only 15 years old, living in California with her free spirited mother. Things aren't as jubilant as they seem. Her mother falls in love with a man named Barry. In a rage of jealousy for dating another woman, Astrid's mother murders Barry and gets hauled off to prison. Astrid moves from one foster home to another. Along the way, she inadvertently makes a woman succumb back to alcoholism, gets sent to the hospital from a gunshot wound, witnesses a suicide, and falls in love herself.

    Before you decide to watch this movie, make sure you're in the right frame of mind, as it's a very depressing experience. This isn't one of those movies that will leave your head as soon as you are done watching it. It sticks with you for a long time. It's been a while since I have thought about a movie before going to sleep. This movie reminded me of my troubles with my Mother. In a very different way, of course, but it reminded that you only have one birth mother, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Each encounter with the foster parents is disturbing in different ways, the worst for me was Renee Zellweger. She was a gentle soul who was too emotionally broken for her own good. The storyline between her & Alison Lohman haunted me. Speaking of Lohman, I thought she was phenomenally good. She was so poised. Her repressed emotions made me feel for her in a big way. Her character is so likable, you just want to help her at times, even though you can't. That's how you know you give a great performance when you act like they are real. Watching her evolve throughout the film was unforgettable. Michelle Pfeiffer is just as good as Lohman is. Her beauty is hypnotizing. Her hypocritical character is alternately heartbreaking and surreal. You'll definitely feel mixed emotions when it comes to her. The final confrontation between Pfeiffer & Lohman was chilling to watch. Robin Wright is excellent, so is Cole Hauser in a more subtle way. Keep an eye out for a Melissa McCarthy cameo as a paramedic

    Final Thoughts: This movie was very hard to review. I don't think i'll watch this movie again, anytime soon. It's a fantastic film, but emotionally exhausting. You expend so much energy on your emotions, while watching this movie. The score, the acting, and the story is near perfect. It's a movie you won't forget.

    9.3/10
  • comment
    • Author: Bladebringer
    I'm not so attracted to the drama genre but this movie was actually very good. It tells the story of a woman with one daughter who goes to jails due to murdering her boyfriend; now she goes from foster to foster experiencing both positive and negative things. I just saw this movie and discovered what a masterpiece this is; it was entertaining at first but afterwards got depressing which caused me sadness. Then again I felt weirdly sadly happy at the end and didn't know really why. This isn't a light-hearting movie but yet it's good and just succeeds at almost every level. I found the acting to be good and the writing to be well down and as will as the direction and effects and all that stuff, but I wished their wasn't so much sadness in the movie and mostly I found sadness coming from that background music. Anyway, for all those who hadn't seen the film, I encourage you to see this one and I can assure you won't regreet but please don't be a negative viewer, and what I mean about that, the events of this movie runs somewhat slow; their's not that much of action but even though the movie itself is good; I'm usually not fond of movies with slow events but this movie seriously attracted me cause it opened my heart to make me realise how excellent it is. I can't express how I'm in love with this movie I just feel so passionate about it so I would like to thank the whole cast and crew and especially the writer not forgetting the author of the novel which without it, this movie never would've existed.
  • comment
    • Author: Skillet
    I could watch this movie from end to end over and over again. Just as I could read Janet Fitch's book cover to cover and then start it over again. I'm torn between whose performance is better -- Alison Lohman or Michelle Pfeiffer. I think I've decided after several viewings from the time it came out on video in 2003 until now that Pfeiffer's performance is stronger. I can see so much of my own mother in her haunting portrayal of a perfect mother who could turn evil in a second and did by killing her lover. The movie itself focuses on Lohman as she transitions from foster home to foster home after Pfeiffer is sentenced to 35 years to life in prison. The screen just eats Michelle Pfeiffer -- her long blonde hair is perfect in every scene, including the time she's in prison. The book describes her as beautiful and the role was cast well. Pfeiffer is stunning. The supporting cast is equally strong, most especially Robin Wright Penn and Renee Zellweger. Wright Penn is outstanding as a Bible-beating trailer-ish (they don't actually live in a trailer) foster mother. Astrid (Lohman) enjoys this place at first, but she and Wright Penn's boyfriend Ray (Cole Hauser; in a performance that made him a star) fall for one another.

    All around well worth the time and energy in seeing it, White Oleander is and remains one of my favorite films.

    7/10; 3 of 4 stars.
  • comment
    • Author: Xtintisha
    I loved this movie, it was a faithful adaptation of the book (which I also loved) and the acting was excellent. Alison Lohman was just perfect in the role. I totally bought Astrid's absolute confusion and anguish when her life is turned upside down, and her slow transformation to survivor and artistic soul. Astrid realizes, in a mature way her mother can't even grasp, that she must acknowledge her mother's role in her life and her mother's contribution to who she is and who she will become, while at the same time breaking away from her mother and becoming her own person. I think Lohman's acting steals the show, away from Pfeiffer, Zellweger and the rest (though everyone was good, especially Robin Wright Penn and even Rena, the foster "mom" who makes her sell her own clothes). I've watched it more than once because if I just happen to run across it and watch it for a minute, I'm hooked and have to watch it all again.
  • comment
    • Author: Cesar
    I was fortunate enough to attend a gala screening of White Oleander at the Toronto International Film Festival this week. I loved it. The performances are wonderful - Michelle Pfeiffer is just terrific as Ingrid, the artist/mother arrested for murdering her cheating boyfriend, and Robin Wright-Penn and Renee Zellweger are great as foster mothers who take in her daughter. But the real revelation of this movie is the daughter, Astrid, played brilliantly by Alison Lohman. Her life is instantly and irrevocably changed when the police come to her door early one morning to take her mother away. The movie is really about how she grows and changes in the company of the women who take her in, and how she copes with her constantly changing circumstances. Lohan is completely convincing, subtle and graceful. Any 21 year old newcomer who can steal a scene from Pfeiffer or Wright-Penn is definitely somebody to look out for. I couldn't take my eyes off her, as she turned from her mothers little girl into a bright, talented young woman. The script is brilliant. At the same time we are watching as Astrid is forced to grow up almost overnight, we are also learning that her relationship with her mother is anything but simple. Ingrid is controlling and jealous, but she is also brilliant and talented. Astrid must break free of her mothers grasp before she can really know herself. And while her mother is telling her to think for herself, she is at the same time trying to tell her what to think. With Ingrid locked up, Astrid is desperate to regain some sense of safety and security, and it is only through her exposure to a number of very troubled women, and a boy who finally offers her some kind of unconditional love (played brilliantly by Patrick Fugit (the young star of Almost Famous)), that she finally finds that security within herself. The movie is full of surprises, doling out information as we need it, and never resorting to cheap sentimentality. The film is bright and colorful and just a joy to watch, and the score by Thomas Newman is absolutely beautiful, the best I've heard this year, and certain to be an Oscar contender. The Film Festival isn't over yet, but I'm certain White Oleander will be one of my favorite films this year.
  • comment
    • Author: GODMAX
    White Oleander (2002): Dir: Peter Kosminsky / Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Alison Lohman, Renee Zellweger, Robin Wright, Billy Connolly: Dreadful sack of trash hyped by its wasted casting. A teenager goes from foster home to foster home after her mother was convicted of murdering her cheating boyfriend. Ending leaves her future uncertain while viewers are manipulated with a phony redemption theme that comes off as contrived. Setup gives little background and it is followed by predictable and depressing developments. Director Peter Kosminsky seems unfocused in his presentation of these warped relationships. Alison Lohman does her best with a role that is beneath her. Michelle Pfeiffer is unsympathetic in what is easily one of her worst roles. Renee Zellweger is wasted as a failed actress who commits suicide. Or maybe she was upset when realizing that she went from Bridget Jones's Diary to this sh*t. Robin Wright overacts as a drunken stripper who claims to be a Christian. Or perhaps the bottle is her reaction to the film in general. Billy Connolly also wastes his talent in this miserable depressing charade. One could say that this showcase regards the damaging affect of neglect and abuse although nothing is neglected more than the miserable screenplay. This film is all over the place and should only be in one place; a deep dark hole. Score: 1 / 10
  • comment
    • Author: Gavinranadar
    There are lots of interesting ideas in 'White Oleander', a film about a girl (Astrid) trying to make her way through California's child support system after her brilliant but overpowering mother is imprisoned. There'as also a fine performance from Michelle Pfeiffer as the mother, who conveys a hint a madness each time she rolls her eyes about her feline face. But it's a pity a lot of the execution is so unsubtle. The mother's crime, for example, is murder; while in foster care the girl first finds a foster-mum who tries to kill her, and then one who succeeds in killing herself. Each of these events are plausible in themselves, but not altogether, and tragedy does not require death on this scale. While the initially clever way the film starts to divert our sympathy away from the mother becomes increasingly obvious, and slightly dishonest when it undermines the idea originally conveyed that mother and daughter had been close. The film also suffers from a slight overdose of Hollywood gloss: everyone is beautiful, everyone is talented, in part this is justified by the plot but one sometimes despairs of ever seeing someone normal-looking in a leading movie role. These flaws mean that 'White Oleander' is far from a great film; but its ambition (to explore complexity in human relationships) keeps it interesting, even if its realisation doesn't quite deliver the potential of its ideas.
  • comment
    • Author: Marg
    Lets be honest. For shear entertainment, chick flicks don't measure up. But for emotional content, they overcompensate. Comedy chick flicks tend to be better than drama chick flicks.

    This film is the rare chick flick which is pretty good. Some of that analysis lies in the fact that the men aren't portrayed as stupid/evil and the women aren't portrayed as saints.

    There's a poignant moment where Astrid says to her mom: "Mother, we shouldn't be afraid of the world, the world should be afraid of us. We are the poison, not them." Astrid has a conscience, something her self-centered mom self-lobotomized years ago. Astrid is a victim, but she is also mature enough to admit to someone close that she knew her mom was intent on killing her boyfriend and instead of trying to stop it, she was a willing accomplice by remaining silent.

    This is a good film and worth watching. Like the movie "Down with Love", this film failed to find an audience. Thanks to home video, this film can now find an audience.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Amy Aquino Amy Aquino - Miss Martinez
    John Billingsley John Billingsley - Paramedic
    Elisa Bocanegra Elisa Bocanegra - Girl in Fight
    Darlene Bohorquez Darlene Bohorquez - Prisoner
    Solomon Burke Jr. Solomon Burke Jr. - Guard
    Scott Allan Campbell Scott Allan Campbell - Bill Greenway
    Sam Catlin Sam Catlin - Teacher
    Debra Christofferson Debra Christofferson - Marlena
    Billy Connolly Billy Connolly - Barry Kolker
    Marc Donato Marc Donato - Davey Thomas
    Svetlana Efremova Svetlana Efremova - Rena Gruschenka
    Patrick Fugit Patrick Fugit - Paul Trout
    Vernon Haas Vernon Haas - Guard
    Sean Happy Sean Happy - Dirt Bike Boyfriend
    Cole Hauser Cole Hauser - Ray
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