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White Oleander
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Cast:Peter Kosminsky, Alison Lohman, Robin Wright, Michelle Pfeiffer

Janet Fitch's memorable novel reaches the screen in a meticulously crafted adaptation that provides Michelle Pfeiffer with her best role in nearly a decade. As Ingrid, a smart, free-spirited, and somewhat narcissistic artist who kills her deceitful lover in a crime of passion, Pfeiffer positively radiates intelligent malevolence: this character isn't just self-absorbed, she's willfully manipulative. Even while serving a prison sentence, she exerts control over her adoring teenage daughter, Astrid (Alison Lohman), who's forced to spend her teenage years in a series of foster homes before becoming her own person. Veteran TV director Peter Kosminsky, having undertaken a very ambitious project, acquits himself with distinction. He fully explores the strange relationship of Ingrid and Astrid, but he also takes pain to develop supporting characters -- particularly the kindly but insecure foster parent played by Ren‚e Zellweger and the pious trailer-trash mom played by Robin Wright Penn. Pfeiffer's intensely strong character is omnipresent, even in scenes in which she doesn't appear, but Lohman's Astrid experiences the most growth. At first merely an appendage of her mother, the girl develops character as a result of her peripatetic adolescence. Though Pfeiffer dominates White Oleander's early scenes, it's Lohman who brings the film to such a positive, enormously satisfying conclusion. Ed Hulse

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