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White Oleander

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: White Oleander

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Peter Kosminsky
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Robin Wright, Taryn Manning, Patrick Fugit, Alison Lohman, Noah Wyle, Stephen Root

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

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 converse.

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

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