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WHITE OLEANDER

A mother who goes to prison for murdering her lover continues to exert a strong influence on her daughter.

CAST: Alison Lohman, Robin Wright Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Renée Zellweger, Billy Connolly, Patrick Fugit, Cole Hauser, Noah Wyle, Svetlana Efremova

DIRECTOR: Peter Kosminsky


"The film takes the materials of human tragedy and dresses them in lovely costumes, Southern California locations and star power...The story is determined to be colorful and melodramatic, like a soap opera where the characters suffer inways that look intriguing. When you are a teenage girl and your mother is jailed for murder and you are shipped to a series of foster homes, isn't it a little unlikely that each home would play like an entertaining episode of a miniseries?" --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


"'White Oleander' has done many things right in its adaptation, starting with the casting of Pfeiffer, who gives a riveting, impeccable performance in what is literally and figuratively a killer role...This is a film without a center, a film whose young protagonist should have more texture, more of a compelling voice than she does...Lohman does best when her character is challenged, and that responsibility is almost exclusively filled by the incandescent Pfeiffer, who brings power and unshakable will to her role as mother-master manipulator... even though 'White Oleander' is not always compelling, it's a tribute to the strength of the book's conception and the good work that's gone into it that it retains the power to haunt us." Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

I will do anything to avoid taking the side of Peter Kosminsky's movie, which tenders the Lecter-like suggestion that art excuses all. Ingrid is a murderer, but she is also a painter, and we are nudged toward the view that her crime was testimony to some lifelong scheme of creative female empowerment...This is truly pernicious--spiritual snobbery in which the sufferings of beautiful educated white women are nobler than those of minorities, or of those less blessed with gifts...even its best performances have the air of star turns, or kooky audition pieces, and that is why 'White Oleander' belongs to its young lead, Alison Lohman, who shows up in almost every scene, and whose watchfulness is a rebuke to her elders and craziers." -- Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

"In the rich, turbulent screen adaptation of the novel, Michelle Pfeiffer's Ingrid is an indelibly acute screen presence. She surveys the world with the imperious glare of a predatory bird accustomed to ruling every roost she's ever perched on, and her jaw line resembles the gleaming curve of a pearl-handled dagger...'White Oleander' is superbly acted from top to bottom. Ms. Pfeiffer, giving the most complex screen performance of her career, makes her Olympian seductress at once irresistible and diabolical. Ms. Lohman, in what may be the year's most auspicious screen acting debut, evokes the inner conflicts of adolescence with a churning force that never lapses into sentimentality." -- Stephen Holden, The New York Times

"Some of the year's most arresting female performances justify 'White Oleander'... Michelle Pfeiffer, who gives the performance of her career as Astrid's monstrous mom, Ingrid, a hugely self-absorbed and man-hating artist who goes to jail for poisoning her boyfriend...the acting is so strong you can almost overlook Astrid's offensive suggestion that Ingrid should be forgiven--in a hilariously florid voice-over speech at the end--because she's such an artistic genius." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

"Renée Zellweger summons such lovely, tremulous warmth as Claire, the psychologically fragile rich man's lonely wife who offers Astrid one brief interlude of motherly love, that she's acutely missed when she's gone. Impressively unflappable and natural, 23-year-old Lohman holds the whole plot together skillfully as Astrid changes physical looks and personality style to what she thinks will suit each living situation she's in. Pfeiffer overcomes the dubiousness of Pfeiffer playing someone like Ingrid -- model beauty as monster mom -- by not flinching from the toxicity of a woman who...honestly, makes no sense whatsoever." --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"For guys, this chick flick about teenage Astrid (newcomer Alison Lohman) suffering the evils of the foster-care system is heavy lifting. That said, Michelle Pfeiffer is sensational as Astrid's beautiful wicked witch of a mom, in jail for murdering her lover. And director Peter Kosminsky gets the likes of Renee Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn and Svetlana Efremova to act their hearts out in small roles." --Peter Travers, Rolling Stone