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
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. 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 »
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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Additional scenes featured on the DVD release that is not from the final print:
A scene where Astrid defends her brother (in the first foster home) after Starr beats him up.
A scene immediately after featuring Astrid and her brother (still in the first foster home) lying to the parademic asking how he broke his arm.
A scene where Claire can't decide which cereal they want to eat for breakfast and makes Astrid choose one.
A scene featuring Claire and Astrid riding home in the car after visiting Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer). Claire tells Astrid what Ingrid told her.
A scene where Astrid is drawing Claire's picture and Mark asking Astrid if she took his pen.
A scene where Astrid leaves to go back to Mac. Mark asks Astrid if she wants to go to Claire's funeral in which she declines to. He then gives her a lot of money before getting to the van.
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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