Alison Lohman, Michelle Pfieffer, Robin Wright Penn, Renee Zellwger,
Svetlana Efremova, Billy Connelly, Patrick Fugit, Cole Hauser
and Noah Wyle
Directed by: Peter Kominsky
Rated: PG 13
Oleander is simply wonderful. The performances shine as a practically
all girl cast delivers one helluva film. Based on the best-selling
novel by Janet Fitch, this adaptation manages to capture the novel's
heart warming deep truth's one girl must journey through on her
way to herself.
Oleander is an often sad, yet thoroughly mesmerizing, story about
a girl faced with abrupt dramatic life altering events grows into
a strong defiant woman before our eyes. We meet Ingrid (stunning
Michelle Pfeiffer) and her daughter Astrid (extreme talent Alison
Lohman) leading their happy little bohemian Californian lives.
Ingrid is a bold brash artist that wants the world to know it
can't push her around. Astrid is a quiet precocious girl that
adores her mother. The two are very close though you immediately
feel they are more like sisters than mother and daughter. Ingrid's
not the PTA SUV driving type.
no she isn't. When Ingrid, already a tad bipolar, goes criminally
insane and kills her cheating boyfriend (Billy Connelly) things
go deeper into the catacombs within an already dysfunctional family
unit. Ingrid is promptly sentenced and carted off to jail. Astrid
is promptly carted off to her first, in a series, of foster homes.
life will start to form differently now; her experiences shaping
her indelibly. Each new home a new layer to the budding Astrid.
Ingrid remains the same. She is a control queen snuggled into
her cell still spouting revelations and skewed philosophy at the
first foster mother, Starr (Robin Wright Penn), is an ex showgirl
residing in a double-wide praising the name of the lord while
slurping down a few brewskis and a spewing whole lot of anti-Christian
like lingo. Astrid starts to feel at home; Starr's odd, quirky
and fun. But alas as fate, and plot, would have it sin is again
about to enter the scene and change Astrid's semi-peaceful environment.
Starr is suspecting Astrid has gone and got smitten with Starr's
beau Ray (studmuffin banquet Cole Hauser). Oops, her intuition
is right - and naturally Ray can't keep his Jolly Roger from rising!
All hell in a hand basket breaks lose. Starr goes berserk and
attempts to de-life young Astrid.
it's off to another home-away-from-home for the youngin'. It's
not so bad though. Astrid's been sent to live on the other side
of the tracks, in Malibu. She's planted into a gorgeous home,
with vista views, a pool and the lay out comes complete with a
starlet foster mom named Claire (uber cutey Renee Zellweger).
Claire is super sweet and becomes immediately close to Astrid.
The two are inseparable. Which is a good thing because Claire
doesn't like to be alone
it is not a good thing for Ingrid. Remember her? She's the killer
mom purring away in the slammer. Each time Astrid visits her,
she Ingrid, "mommie dearest," has a bit more to say
we are starting to learn that beneath Ingrid's
porcelain skin lies a reptile with deep scars that bubble and
ooze hatred and contempt for everything; even her own daughter.
She spews venom like a king cobra at the poor kid. Sure she's
beautiful, but she's poisonous - like the white Oleander.
when Astrid shows up, now in residence with Claire, all cleaned
up,. a young lady with stylish clothes and a shining aura, Ingrid
is unable to keep her onionskin shield from revealing the hideous
behemoth of jealousy she really is. She connives to break up Claire
no place else to go Astrid ends up at a hall for unwanted children.
She's immediately beaten up for being so beautiful and decides
to delete her glamorous edge. Astrid is getting tough! She's had
enough with being optimistic and perky! So she chops off her hair,
starts looking a tad butch and radiates thunder and gloom. We
start to squirm in out seats over her continuing misfortunes and
the truth that plays before us.
this pit of hell she's been cast, she manages to finally find
a true friend. His name is Patrick (adorable Paul - a fish by
any other name - Trout). Paul sees past the gloom and doom that
permeates Astrid's atmosphere and falls in love. Awe
is again carted off to a home. This time it's with a savvy crude
businesswoman, Russian Rena Grushenka (Russian Svetlana Efremova)
who has a stable of girls working for her. Not like that! As flea
market entrepreneurs. Astrid digs the freedom the ruskie's house
holds. It's an artistic wild environment - just what the kid needed
Rena teaches her how to make money and let go of sentimental trinkets.
Astrid is ready to let go. Now if only her mom can do the same
Sounds heavy huh? It is. But, it is by far one of the finest films
of the year. Michelle Pfeiffer tricks you with her performance.
You want to like her and then slap, you realize this Ingrid is
just not redeemable.
wonderful Alison Lohman deserves an academy award for her breath
taking performance. Unbelievable. She's a young woman with age-old
talent just pouring from her soul. I can't wait to see what she
brings on next!
Wright Penn plays Starr with a comical edge. She's almost a character.
But in the hands of this seasoned pro Starr pops off the screen
and into your heart. Another excellent film by Sean's squeeze.
Zellweger is wonderful. She plays these "oh gosh" girls
with ease. If she weren't so cunning and intelligent in real life
you'd suspect she wasn't even acting! I wasn't always a huge fan.
Of course when you're given crap like The (feared and dreaded)
Bachelor to go by who could blame me? Now I love seeing her name
on the marquee - it means a jolly good time awaits!
this remarkable women driven film. The whole cast is fantastic.
Pfeiffer and Lohman egnite the screen. And make no mistake this
is a women's film. The men, while good, are refreshingly disposable
fill - you know like the women's roles usually are. Bravo!
recommendation: A large tub off popcorn - you're going to
want to stay put for this one!