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White Oleander /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Alison Lohman, Patrick Fugit, Noah Wyle, Robin Wright Penn 

Directed by: Peter Kosminsky 

Produced by: John Wells, Hunt Lowry 

Written by: Mary Agnes Donoghue 

Distributor: Warner Brothers


Movie Image

Movie Image

Movie Image

     I feel tempted to give White Oleander a better rating, but after evaluating the entire film, I have no choice but to only give it a light two and a half bucket recommendation. The performances are dead on, and are some of the best of the entire year, but the screenplay is much fluffier than it pretends and is supposed to be. The cast made an excellent effort, that I must compliment, but the direction, production, and set design are poorly done. The camera angles feature the horrendous backgrounds more than they do the actors, there is little to no music utilized in the long running length at all, and everything looks like it was put together by a couple of high school video-production students. The great performances are all it has to offer.

     I loved the trailer for the film, which I saw at least ten times before the real deal. I was enticed by the three minute scrapbook of clips, and expected that it would be a wonderful piece. Donít get me wrong, I didnít think White Oleander was bad; it just wasnít what I expected it to be. Maybe my high expectations contributed the average result, but beware: the strongest and most powerful material is used in the trailer, and the entire flick provides much less than the few tidbits shown in the previews. Another thing that was misleading about the trailer was the high usage of the sweet sounding theme song which is  only played during the end credits in the real movie.

     The story is based on a novel by Janet Fitch, which to my knowledge is more thoroughly written than the screenplay, and is in a more chronological order, one thing that the film lacked. It is about a girl named Astrid (Allison Lohman), whose mother named Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) is convicted of murder when she kills her boyfriend who was cheating on her. Jail is not at all traumatizing for Ingrid, but the foster homes that Astrid must live in are terrible to her. She lives with a woman named Starr at first, who is a southern bell with fake breasts and skimpy clothing, even though she is much too old for what she wears. She tries to turn Astrid into a preppy teenage girl, similar to her other daughter, but ends up trying to kill her when she starts to think that she is cheating on her husband. The adoptions agency prohibits Astrid from living with Starrís family anymore after she takes a bullet to the heart, so she is sent to live with Claire Richards (Renee Zellweger), who she truly likes. She is finally living her life to the fullest, but then the plot takes a dramatic turn when Claire commits suicide when she finds that her husband is cheating on her. Astrid is trapped and has no where to go, she can not get along with any family who takes her in. Her life has no sense of direction. Will her sole ever be fulfilled or is she bound to be a prostitute on Sunset Boulevard? The powerful ending scene has the answers.

     There were four great performances in the flick. They were put on by Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn, and Allison Lohman. Pfieffer was great because of the way she presented the confidence that her character had, the strong spoken and perfectly annunciated speech of Ingrid was the best part of the whole movie. Penn was able to accomplish a much different personality, that of a slut, and let me tell you; no one could do it better than she did. The woman that she plays, Starr, is a southern bell who is striving for sex, but tries to cover it up with dialogue about rubbish on Jesus and the Bible. This material was not only strangely believable, but supported one of the best performances of the year. Zellweger on the other hand, played a kind and loving individual, whose nice ways are only a way to busy her self to cover up all of the stress that she undergoes. There was a certain dash of cockiness to her performance that made the role suit her perfectly. Lohman should win ďBest ActressĒ at the Academy Awards for her simply inspiring work. The emotionally destroyed Astrid is one of the most beautiful characters ever created, and Lohmanís narration was the most profound of the last decade. All of the performances put together were a stick of dynamite, which blasted every other actor and actress team of the year out of the water. When its Oscar time, I guarantee you that we will see several of these women nominated.

     White Oleander comes up short of a good movie, but its wonderful performances make it worth seeing at a matinee or renting when on video. In short, the production and direction are terrible, but Lohman, Pfeiffer, Penn, and Zellweger give it its unique flair. I enjoyed it, but didnít worship it; and a light recommendation is an adequate fit for its average material.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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