A teenager journeys through a series of foster homes after her mother goes to prison for committing a crime of passion.A teenager journeys through a series of foster homes after her mother goes to prison for committing a crime of passion.A teenager journeys through a series of foster homes after her mother goes to prison for committing a crime of passion.
White Oleander is a story about life's contradictions and the complexities of control, power, loneliness, betrayal, loyalty, and love. Janet Fitch won rave reviews in 2000 for this novel; screenwriter Mary Agnes Donoghue did not match Fitch's brilliance, but turned a weighty narrative-both in terms of content and size-into an admirable film blueprint.
Director Peter Kosminsky and accomplished actresses Pfeiffer, Robin Wright Penn, Renée Zellweger, and newcomer Lohman used this blueprint to create a gripping film that both readers and nonreaders of the original text will appreciate.
Pfeiffer is as cool and controlling as she is stunning even in prison garb, and her mastery of personality subtleties deserves acclaim. Audiences will hate the character because she is too smart, too manipulative, and too real.
And anticipate an Oscar-worthy breakthrough performance from Lohman. She shines in her portrayal of a daughter who worships her mother until she realizes the superficial nature of her beauty and the cruelty of her heart. Ingrid Magnussen is not as perfect as she thinks, and her love is as poisonous as the white oleander.
Stereotypes cheapen some of the film's richness and choices made to avoid an `R' rating sap some of its strength, but overall the film is as compelling as its sad and truthful characters.
- Oct 14, 2002