Movie Review: White Oleander

 I’m honestly surprised that this movie didn’t win several awards.  It’s very ‘Sundance Film Festival-ish’ and it’s very well done but it only won 3 small awards:  Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer) at the Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards, Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer) at the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards, and Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actor (Mark Donato) at the Young Artists Awards.

 Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:  The Oprah Book Club best-seller by Janet Fitch makes it to the big screen in this adaptation from British director Peter Kosminsky. White Oleander recounts the traumatic adolescence of Astrid Magnusson (Alison Lohman), who finds herself an orphan after her short-fused, enigmatic artist mother Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) is carted off to prison on murder charges. Astrid first finds herself in the care of Starr (Robin Wright Penn), a garish, born-again mother of two with a gruff but sensitive boyfriend (Cole Hauser). From there, she’s shunted back to a state-run facility, where she tangles with other troubled teens and finds temporary solace in the arms of Paul (Patrick Fugit), a dough-faced comic book artist with dreams of moving to New York City. Astrid then lucks into a living arrangement with a successful but insecure actress (Renee Zellweger) who offers her unconditional love. But Ingrid’s stifling influence continues to haunt her daughter, whether through the occasional prison visit or via manipulative letters to Astrid’s caretakers.

 Michelle Pfeiffer is great in this, at least in a totally psychotic and selfish way.  She plays a good crazy person though.  I loved her in What Lies Beneath. She’ll piss you off and you’ll absolutely want to run her over with your car, but she’s totally believable as a psychotic girlfriend who poisons her boyfriend in a fit of rage.  Her daughter Astrid (in the movie, not real life) played by Alison Lohman is left to the mercy of the foster care system after her mom is sent to jail.  I found her experiences to be genuine and it did make me wonder if the author of the book that the movie is based on spent time in the foster-care system.  Astrid is placed in three separate foster families as well as a large group home over the course of several years.  I don’t want to give anything away (because I totally think this movie is worth watching if you haven’t already) but let’s just say that you’ll want to laugh, cry, throw something at the tv, and crawl through the tv to hug certain characters.  You should Netflix this one today.


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