WHITE OLEANDER doesn't have any characters. Instead of characters with dialog,
it has a bunch of very talented actors delivering speeches to each other. The
sort of things that they say -- "Loneliness is the human condition." and "Love
humiliates you. Hatred cradles you." -- would make nice contributions for
pretty little compendiums of homilies, but they aren't how human beings
The story, which stars Michelle Pfeiffer as a murderer named Ingrid Magnussen,
is about people who are prone to dangerously dysfunctional relationships.
Ingrid is a free-spirited and egocentric artist who had a child, Astrid (Alison
Lohman), as the off-spring of one of her disastrous relationships. Now an older
teen, Astrid is busy following in her mother's footsteps when it comes to art
and to guys -- that is until her mother is sent to prison for basically the rest
of her life. Astrid's life then goes into an unbelievable death spiral as she
moves from one ridiculous foster home to another.
In one of Astrid's clichéd abodes, her new temporary mother, Starr (Robin Wright
Penn), is "Bible thumping trailer trash." When Starr isn't lecturing Astrid on
the need for accepting Jesus as her personal savior, she is sleeping with a
married man, drinking, smoking and shooting at Astrid.
Meanwhile back in prison, Ingrid is getting lovelier by the day. She tells her
daughter that the reason for this is, "Prisons are great for me. There's no
hypocrisy here. It's kill or be killed."
The maudlin movie has more acts than you can count. In some of them, Patrick
Fugit, who was so brilliant as the star of ALMOST FAMOUS, appears as a poorly
written character called Paul Trout, a boy who'd love to be Astrid's boyfriend,
but, since Paul is a warm and compassionate person, you know that they won't
really get together until the end, if at all. Fugit is completely wasted in
this nearly vacuous role.
Don't even get me started on all the unbelievable twists in the plot.
WHITE OLEANDER runs 1:49. It is rated PG-13 for "mature thematic elements
concerning dysfunctional relationships, drug content, language, sexuality and
violence" and would acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes