Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

White Oleander


Astrid (Alison Lohman) is fifteen and living with her single mother, Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), just about the most toxic mom I have ever seen in a film. She totally dominates her daughter, but then murders her boyfriend. She is sent to prison, and poor Astrid bounces around between the nightmare of juvenile housing and the uncertainty of a series of foster homes. The chief attraction here is the various places she goes. First it is with sleazy trailer trash Robin Wright Penn, to whom she is little more than a pet, until she gets enraged with jealousy when it is clear that the younger woman is attractive to her boyfriend, and shoots her. Astrid survives, and the next foster home is with a rich couple in a fabulous house. Renée Zellweger is good to her and even wants to meet Astrid’s real mother in the slammer. Big mistake. Horrible Ingrid is able to control her daughter’s life even from behind bars. She cruelly manipulates the desperate Ms. Z, right into suicide.

Astrid lands with a Fagin-like woman who runs a group of petty criminal girls, and then finds that her mom is going to get an appeal. Ingrid wants Astrid to lie for her, in hopes of getting out. I have to say I didn’t buy the ending, which I won’t reveal except to say I don’t think a venomous snake is real likely to stop biting that late in life. Other than that, I liked it.