White Oleander Movie Review
Amidst a cast that includes the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Robin Wright Penn and Renee Zellweger, near-newcomer Alison Lohman makes herself heard in White Oleander, a well-done though not overly powerful drama about a girl working her way through the foster care system.
Lohman stars as the daughter of a very independent though somewhat misguided artist (Pfeiffer) who poisons one of her boyfriends after he breaks up with her. The mother is sentenced to at least thirty years in prison, and Lohman is sentenced to a life of foster homes. She skips around from one to the next, suffering through tragedy after tragedy, brutally angry at her mother for being so selfish, and at herself.
Lohman does a good job in the lead, showing off a variety of styles for the camera (both in appearance and character). This is her first mainstream movie and she does an excellent job, especially considering that she is surrounded by some of the best Hollywood has to offer. It is quite interesting to see her progression from an innocent child to an obviously flawed young adult, and that is what makes the movie so good.
Furthermore, Michelle Pfeiffer, though definitely in a supporting role, turns in her best performances in years (not like she has had a lot of roles, of course), and it is a drastically different one from what she is known for. She has a very unique personality here, and strangely, she is almost unrecognizable at times. This is great acting.
White Oleander does have a few slow parts, but for the most part it is interesting and intriguing and just fun to watch. It has many serious moments, and for the most part Lohman does a very good job of handling them. There are a few spotty scenes, but everything is pretty solid.
Still, I never found White Oleander to be all that powerful. It has the potential to be, but seems to shy away from any real confrontations between the characters that could have made for great scenes. Maybe this is closer to real life, but I didn't feel the edge that some dramas have.
White Oleander is a pretty good drama with good acting and a good storyline. It never reaches its potential, though. Nevertheless, I would recommend it to many of the millions of people that decided not to see it in theaters.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.