White Oleander

  • Review Date: May 20, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Upsetting and dark, for older than PG-13.
  • Review Date: May 20, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Violence

Intense and painful family situations, murder, shooting, drug use, suicide.

Sex

Sexual references and situations, including predatory sex with foster parent.

Language

Some strong language for a PG-13.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alcohol and drug use.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie includes brutality of a modern-era Dickensian quality. Astrid is seduced by one foster parent and shot by another. A third commits suicide. Astrid is subjected to physical and emotional abuse. Ingrid murders her lover. There are non-explicit sexual situations and references. Characters drink, smoke, and use drugs. Characters use strong language and mock religious faith.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

When strong willed artist Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) murders her lover, she is sent to prison, leaving her daughter Astrid (Alison Lohman) to a series of foster homes. First, Astrid lives with Starr (Robin Wright Penn), a situation that starts out fine until Astrid gets involved with Starr's live-in boyfriend. Astrid's other foster homes include Claire (Renée Zellweger), a weepy actress with a distant husband, and Rena (Svetlana Efremova), a money-hungry Russian who rules a ragtag group of orphans. In between, she stays at an institution, where she is beat up by tough girls but befriended by sensitive Paul (Patrick Fugit). Each setting provides Astrid with a new identity to try and a new opportunity to be hurt. Through it all, she visits her mother in prison, and it becomes clear that the woman who killed the man who tried to leave her would also do anything -- and destroy anyone -- to hold on to her daughter. Whenever Astrid seems happy, Ingrid finds a way to ruin it, leaving Astrid confused and self-destructive. Finally, though, she learns that she is reacting to Ingrid, and that to be fully her own person she must find her own way to intimacy and expression.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

WHITE OLEANDER is adapted from a book with language was both vivid and lyrical that made the terrible events more epic than sordid. The movie tries to achieve the same standard, going for prestige drama over soap opera. But even the an exquisite performance by Michelle Pfeiffer and powerhouse appearances by Robin Wright Penn and newcomer Alison Lohman cannot keep the endless series of tragedies from melodrama.

A Jungian analysis might suggest that the story is a metaphor for the inevitable separation in all mother-daughter relations. All of the mother figures -- Ingrid, the foster moms, and the social worker -- are like one mother splintered into many extreme versions, as though reflected through a prism. All children find their mother to be many things, from the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving figure of their earliest memories to the extremely demanding and ultimately rejecting caricature she can appear to a teenager struggling to know herself.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Astrid changes her appearance and manner to reflect each of her "homes," while Ingrid seems almost untouched by her surroundings.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 4, 2002
DVD release date:March 11, 2003
Cast:Alison Lohman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robin Wright Penn
Director:Peter Kominsky
Studio:Warner Bros.
Genre:Drama
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:drug use, violence, sexual references, and intense trauma

This review of White Oleander was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written bySACYUC June 14, 2010
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

One of the best films i have ever seen.

I love this movie, it`s beautiful. One of the best films i have ever seen.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bymsharpton April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 
Adult Written bywonder dove March 11, 2009
AGE
16
QUALITY
 

Astounding performances!

Performed beautifully by Pfeiffer and Lohman, this movie is exquisite. It deals with very mature themes and is not recommended for children of any age. I think it should've been rated an R, or almost. It is one of the most depressing movies I've seen, in a good way. Michelle Pfeiffer should have won an oscar! Renee did an excellent job as well and served the most heart breaking part of the movie, which I cried. I give it a 5/5.

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