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 »
When Uncle Ray and Astrid are outside watching the meteor shower he lights a cigarette but when he takes a puff and pulls it away to blow out the smoke there is no smoke and the cigarette is not lit. When Starr comes out and asks what he is doing the cigarette is lit and smoldering. See more »
My opinion is if there is a god he sure as hell ain't worth prayin' to.
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Alison Lohman stands out in subtle coming-of-age drama
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.
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