White Oleander (2002)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBB

USA/Germany, 2002.  Warner Bros., Pandora Filmproduktion.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Janet Fitch’s best-selling novel reaches the big screen with unexceptional results, making for the second time that Michelle Pfeiffer has adapted an Oprah book selection for the big screen (the first time was The Deep End of the Ocean).  Pfeiffer plays a headstrong, charismatic visual artist whose cutthroat moralizing gets her into deep trouble when she is arrested for the murder of her volatile boyfriend (). Being put in jail means that there is no one to take care of her young daughter (), and a journey begins for the young lady that will affect her deeply and leave her scarred. Lohman goes one from foster home with a Bible-thumping ex-stripper (), to a rough institution for young kids, then to another home with an emotionally fragile movie star (Renee Zellweger), then back to the institution before another foster home finally puts her on the road to independence. Along the way she meets a boy () who appeals to her artistic nature, and has many confrontations with her mother while visiting her in jail that lead to her finally begging her to let her go her own way. Lohman does a fine job as a newcomer carrying the film, but the character never really learns anything that the audience is privy to sharing in Mary Agnes Donohue’s rushed and shallow screenplay. Pfeiffer’s character is the far more interesting of the two, particularly because she brilliantly portrays this woman’s conflict between her hard-edged, self-taught invulnerability and her vast love for the daughter she is constantly losing.

Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination:  Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer)

Toronto International Film Festival:  2002

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