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
When Astrid, Starr, and Carolee are driving to go get clothes, Starr refers to the reverend of their church as "Reverend Thomas." However, in every other scene before and after this, the reverend is referred to as "Reverend Daniels." Perhaps his name is Thomas Daniels. See more »
Everybody asks why I started at the end and worked back to the beginning, the reason is simple, I couldn't understand the beginning until I had reached the end. There were too many pieces of the puzzle missing, too much you would never tell. I could sell these things. People want to buy them, but I'd set all this on fire first. She'd like that, that's what she would do. She'd make it just to burn it. I couldn't afford this one, but the beginning deserves something special. But how do I show ...
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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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