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Overall Rating
3.64

Awesome: 17.86%
Worth A Look39.29%
Average: 35.71%
Pretty Bad: 3.57%
Total Crap: 3.57%

2 reviews, 16 user ratings


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White Oleander
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by Greg Muskewitz

"Ups and downs."
4 stars

The book from which this is based (spotlighted by Oprah’s Book Club, which could have meant trouble), from what I hear and plan to find out on my own soon, is able to address the turbulent issues of domesticity better than what the film transcends. But if the book can resonate as well as Peter Kosminsky’s film, I will then, additionally, sing its praises.

Set to the perspective of thoroughly concatenated vignettes, White Oleander trails Astrid (Alison Lohman) along her routes of displacement after her ultra-chary, procrustean mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) commits murder. It’s a bumpy ride on the paths to foster homes: the not-so-eager start with “bible-thumping trailer-trash” where Astrid ends up getting shot by the Jesus Freak mother (feuding with jealousy over her married-boyfriend’s involvement with Astrid); an orphanage for the in-limbo/derelict/unadoptable; the cozy comforts of a b-grade actress (Renée Zellweger) and her oft-absent husband; the household of a Russian fashion-pimp’s collection of abandoned. (Zellweger, undoubtedly a good sport, not only appears in a sallow, unflattering light, she also freely pokes fun at herself as an in-joke with a clip from Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.) Apart from the fact that the film doesn’t, and probably wouldn’t, completely have adequate time to spend at each locale, compromises must be made. The segues are established by the ever-alternating length or color of Astrid’s hair, the audible expansion of maturity, the transformations her moral character sees. Early on, the influence from the mother upon the impressionable girl’s growth is camouflaged as parental guidance. Between Astrid’s transitions, she slowly comes to the realization that it is her mother who serves as a metaphorical cancer, jading and soiling any proper encouragement in assistance. Eventually, as displayed, but not before she is gently persuaded by those she encounters in passing, the extrinsic cynicism is similarly adopted regardless of the newfound carapace, and the girl becomes her own cancer due in part from all the moral ambiguities unfairly thrown at her. The gradual deterioration of sorts is something of a correctable ail, and the film respectfully heeds to the self-discovery. In other words, the end result of the upward journey can additionally take multiple turns for the downside. American films, especially of this variety, have the tendency to extirpate subtleties from its material; White Oleander manages to preserve much of what it has to offer, despite noticeable and apparent glosses, but there are still too many nuances and quodlibets that are either minimized or over-emphasized. Kosminsky, thankfully, never under- or overstates the underlying feminist roots (“Remember every tear”), taking it as it comes and delegating the virtues to individuals and individual incidents instead of typical broad applications. Much of the power behind the film’s plucky girl can directly be credited to Alison Lohman, vaguely reminiscent of a young Sarah Polley. Lohman’s restraint from the obvious banalities of the role, and her sophistication in layering the multi-faceted character, prove highly ambitious yet remarkably distinguished. And Pfeiffer, playing her second role from an Oprah-sanctioned book (The Deep End of the Ocean), despite being immured, returns to the screen — notwithstanding the mawkish I am Sam — with renascence.

With Robin Wright-Penn, Patrick Fugit and Noah Wyle.

[Worth-seeing.]

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6196&reviewer=172
originally posted: 10/26/02 15:20:02
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User Comments

2/20/05 Darryl Pfeiffer gives an intense performance, but I was disappointed overall. Pretty boring movie. 2 stars
12/03/04 Buzzer Wonderful. A friend and I are doing the last prison scene for the talent show 5 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt An excellent film! Very interesting! Alison Lohman is superb and steals the show! 5 stars
4/15/04 alice it was OK could have been better. Good acting. 3 stars
3/14/04 Elias King The choice of actresses and their performances superb! The stroty was slow moving and lackl 4 stars
11/03/03 lassie it was a great film. it was a little slow but very moving 4 stars
11/01/03 Jin Other than Lohman, this is a real melodrama. 3 stars
10/29/03 TheOthersFan hated the shaky handheld camera. story is so-so 3 stars
9/13/03 Sarah Davidson It's a very interesting movie, but I liked the book better. 5 stars
7/18/03 Chris There is nothing wrong with a "chick flick" but this was average. It could have been great. 3 stars
6/23/03 ttiinnaa kind of sad, but kind of great 4 stars
4/01/03 Blabity blah Alison Lohman's entry into the bigtime. Well acted, and heartbreaking. Excellent movie. 5 stars
1/16/03 Shannon Don't read the book first 4 stars
10/23/02 Danny Roseman Michelle Pfeiffer: Oscar!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/20/02 John Spinal Pfeiffer is amazing .... 4 stars
10/14/02 Chick Flick Hell SUCK-ED more than ass! It sucked a whole elephant's genitals. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  11-Oct-2002 (PG-13)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  12-Jun-2003




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