White Oleander (2002)

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Released 30-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers And Author
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 104:51 (Case: 110)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (78:05) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Kosminsky

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Amy Aquino
John Billingsley
Elisa Bocanegra
Darlene Bohorquez
Solomon Burke Jr.
Scott Allan Campbell
Sam Catlin
Debra Christofferson
Billy Connolly
Marc Donato
Svetlana Efremova
Patrick Fugit
Vernon Haas
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Thomas Newman
Earl Rose

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Mommy Dearest has just been reincarnated, and her new name is Ingrid Magnussen. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the horror mother from hell in this slick but ultimately unsatisfying piece of Hollywood glitz. Ingrid is a "free spirit" - whatever that really means - an artist whose all-consuming love for her daughter, Astrid (Alison Lohman), follows no conventional maternal bounds. Young Astrid has learned to survive and even feel safe within the perils of her mother's mercurial and possessive "love," but when Ingrid is arrested for murdering her lover (played almost in truncated mime by Billy Connolly), Astrid finds herself on a treadmill of foster homes and foster "care".

    The one survival technique Astrid knows is to assimilate to survive, and so she undergoes metamorphoses at the hands of every foster environment in which she finds herself. She becomes white trailer trash when cared for by the born-again ex-stripper Starr (Robin Wright-Penn), then morphs into a Beverly Hills WASP princess when under the roof of failing actress Claire Richards (Renée Zellweger). When transported to a juvenile facility, Astrid assumes the jagged edged persona of youth on the edge, and in her final placing, under the tutelage of the ultra-capitalist, Rena (Svetlana Efremova), she discovers her gothic expression.

    Throughout these many faces of Astrid is the all-consuming hand of Ingrid who, even in prison, reaches out to infiltrate and poison the lives of not only Astrid, but those who have taken her under their care. For poor little Astrid, the principle of survival is all-encompassing and devastating. In the desperate attempt to fulfil her needs she is thwarted, and the toxic elements of her upbringing wreak devastation upon her own and other's heads. In one telling scene of confrontation with her mother she declares "They are not the enemy Mother, we are." Well said that girl.

    The only solace that Astrid can find amongst the chaos is the gentle and non judgemental Paul (Patrick Fugit), whose similarly tragic background gives her a point of refuge. But can they both escape their pasts in order to take on their futures?

    I found this much touted film somewhat formulaic, trite and non-engaging. My argument is not with the performances, which are generally very good, with exceptional mentions due to Pfeiffer and Lohman. But overall, it's a slick piece of nothing. Toxic parenting is not a new theme, and director Peter Kosminsky brings no new insights or interest to this archetype. The story moves in a methodical, workmanlike and, in my opinion, very ordinary way. The characters overall feel like stereotypes and are bland.

    The screenplay is adapted from the novel by Janet Fitch who, thanks to her endorsement by Oprah Winfrey, enjoyed tremendous success with the publication of her work. For those who have read the book (I haven't), it is apparently reasonably faithful in principle to its story and Fitch herself claims to be delighted with the cinematic product. For me, it was a stylish piece of nothing. Good enough to fill in an idle couple of hours, but not ground breaking or particularly memorable.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced.

     Having seen rave reviews of the quality of the R1 version, I was expecting great things. Yet it seemed to me that there was almost a masque over much of the film, making everything appear a little flat and lifeless. The picture was a tad soft with some evidence of low level noise.

     This film has a strongly blue cast which I found annoying and artificial. Although skin tones were generally acceptable, the overall impression was of a film that had been heavily polarised, which I found quite distracting.

     There was minor evidence of aliasing and occasional motion blur, but generally the film was free of major MPEG or film artefacts.

     There were no subtitles available on this release.

     This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 78:05. The change is not at all distracting.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are three audio tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary track, with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound. I listened to all available tracks, and they are all of a high standard.

     Dialogue never presented a difficulty with this film. It was always clean, clear and easy to understand. Audio sync also presented no problems.

     There's virtually nothing to say about the musical score. It was there. It served its purpose, but it was pretty much unremarkable in any discernible way.

     The use of both surround sound and subwoofer was very appropriate. The surround channels gave a good depth to the film, and, although sparingly used, the subwoofer had occasional, appropriate moments of glory.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu design is themed around the movie. It features a promotional still and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Behind The Scenes (12:39)

     A mix of deleted scenes, out-takes and on-set behind the camera action. It is palpably clear that poor old Billy Connolly suffered some serious falls to the cutting room floor, and it was an interesting insight into the ambience on set.

Trailer (2:32)

Commentary - Peter Kosminsky (Director), John Wells, (Producer), Janet Fitch (Novelist)

     Some good insights available here, with the only worrying concern being that it almost takes listening to the commentary to get the subtleties of parts of the text, like (for example) how Ingrid actually managed to pop off Barry. This revelation made some sense out of the scene of Ingrid and Astrid driving to Mexico. Call me churlish, but I don't think we should have to rely on a commentary to "get" key story elements.


     A series of interviews with key players, namely:
Alison Lohman (3:59), Robin Wright-Penn (3:28), Michelle Pfeiffer (3:27), Reneé Zellweger (3:24), Patrick Fugit (1:48), Noah Wylie (2:18), Peter Kosminsky (3:27), John Wells (2:59), Hunt Lowry (Producer) (1:36), Janet Fitch (2:27). They all say very nice things about each other, pretty much exactly the same way as the interviewee before them. Ho-hum.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The packaging appears identical, but I've heard rave reports about the quality of the R1 version. This is only hearsay of course, but that's the word on the subether waves.

     The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

     If you feel the need for more enthrallment, perhaps R1 is for you. Given the rave reviews about its quality, perhaps R1 is the natural born winner, since our version seems to have been under the ultraviolet lamp for a bit too long.


     It passes the time, and the acting's quite good, but ultimately, it adds up to nothing really special.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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