An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
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. Written by
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 Chicago (2002) actresses Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the same category, Pfeiffer failed to get a nomination. See more »
Astrid says her father left when she was two years old when she talks with Ray, but toward the end of the movie, Ingrid tells Astrid her father left when she was six months old. See more »
Of course I was jealous. I live in a cell with a women who has a vocabulary of 25 words.
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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.
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