White Oleander

Release Date: October 11, 2002
Pushed back from October 4, 2002

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White Oleander is an Oprah Winfrey Book-of-the-Month Club entry being converted into a big-screen production. I've just lost 99% of the men who read that first sentence but for everyone still with me, there's a lot to like about this movie.

The premise of the story is depressing in nature, as it centers around the fallout after a homicide. Ingrid Magnussen, a strong-willed poet who happens to be a mother, commits the murder in question. When she falls into a jealous rage and poisons an ex-boyfriend, the judicial system sentences her to life in prison. This leaves her daughter, Astrid, in the foster care system of Los Angeles. Obviously, the dramatic changes forced upon the girl lead to her maturing beyond her years at a very tender age.

During her period of foster care, she is raised in several different households. In this frustrating period, she feels isolated without enjoying the convenience of solitude. Her only solace comes when she spends time in the company of Paul Trout, a fellow disenchanted youth caught in the foster system. His life has been even harder, since his birth mother's addiction caused him to be born a heroin addict. The two of them spend time together as Astrid is passed around from home to home. While she does finally meet a foster family that brings her some semblance of happiness and identity, she eventually finds herself faced with a choice: She has the opportunity to free her mother from jail, but in order to do so, she must lie about the circumstances of the murder.

Adding to the delicious complexity of the plot is a wonderful cast. Michelle Pfeiffer plays Ingrid, the poison-serving mother. Noah Wyle and Renée Zellweger team up as the nice parents who help heal some of Astrid's emotional wounds. The supremely talented yet infrequently-working Robin Wright-Penn (who will always be the Princess Bride, no matter how many other brilliant performances she delivers) plays another one of Astrid's temporary mothers. Patrick Fugit, whose dazzling debut in Almost Famous was as good as any in 2000, will undertake the key role of Paul Trout. The most important role of Astrid herself has been given to a relative unknown named Alison Lohman. Unless you caught one of the four episodes of Pasadena that aired last season, you probably don't know her, but she's going to be getting a ton of press when this movie comes out in six months. She's poised to be one of the biggest breakout stars of the year if White Oleander is as good as it looks on paper.

White Oleander has a slender budget of $11 million, which is all the more amazing when the cast is factored in. This means that the film has very modest goals to reach in order to succeed financially. From a quality perspective, a cast this good with a release date at this point in the year automatically creates Academy Award buzz. On paper, this looks like a very strong end-of-the-year sleeper. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for White Oleander
Main Cast Michelle Pfeiffer, Alison Lohman, Robin Wright Penn, Renee Zellweger
Supporting Cast Patrick Fugit, Noah Wyle, Amy Aquino
Director Peter Kosminsky
Screenwriter Mary Agnes Donoghue
Distributor Warner Bros.
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site http://whiteoleander.warnerbros.com
Also see Stephanie Star Smith reviews the trailer
Awards Awards page for White Oleander
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture

Comparison films for White Oleander
Adjusted Opening
Total BO
Adjusted Total
What Lies Beneath 7/21/0029.70 33.22 2813 10558.00 11361.1 155.37 173.81 5.23
Jerry Maguire 12/13/9617.08 23.30 2531 6748.00 8854.8 153.75 209.76 9.00
Message In A Bottle 2/12/9916.71 19.91 2538 6584.00 7517.2 52.80 62.92 2.80
Bridget Jones's Diary 4/13/0110.73 11.45 1611 6662.00 6838.9 71.50 76.31 6.66
Story of Us, The 10/15/999.67 11.52 2164 4469.00 5102.4 27.07 32.25 2.80
I Am Sam 1/25/028.32 8.65 1268 6562.00 6562.0 40.27 41.86 4.82
Beloved 10/16/988.17 10.50 1501 5443.00 6731.2 22.84 29.36 2.80
Bachelor, The 11/5/997.48 8.91 2520 2968.00 3388.7 21.73 25.89 2.91
Nurse Betty 9/8/007.15 7.99 1459 4901.00 5273.8 25.15 28.13 3.52
Almost Famous 9/22/006.93 7.75 1193 5809.00 6250.9 32.47 36.32 4.22
One True Thing 9/18/986.61 8.49 1590 4157.00 5140.9 23.34 30.00 3.53
One Fine Day 12/20/966.23 8.49 1946 3201.00 4200.4 46.11 62.90 7.40
Deep End of The Ocean 3/12/995.56 6.62 1907 2916.00 3329.3 13.38 15.94 2.41
Thousand Acres, A 9/19/972.93 3.84 1208 2425.00 3064.3 7.78 10.22 2.66
To Gillian on her 37th Birthday 10/25/961.54 2.10 807 1908.00 2503.7 4.05 5.52 2.56



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