The Oprah Book Club best-seller by Janet Fitch makes it to the big screen in this adaptation from British director Peter Kosminsky. White Oleander recounts the traumatic adolescence of Astrid Magnusson (Alison Lohman), who finds herself an orphan after her short-fused, enigmatic artist mother Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) is carted off to prison on murder charges. Astrid first finds herself in the care of Starr (Robin Wright Penn), a garish, born-again mother of two with a gruff but sensitive boyfriend (Cole Hauser). From there, she's shunted back to a state-run facility, where she tangles with other troubled teens and finds temporary solace in the arms of Paul (Patrick Fugit), a dough-faced comic book artist with dreams of moving to New York City. Astrid then lucks into a living arrangement with a successful but insecure actress (Renee Zellweger) who offers her unconditional love. But Ingrid's stifling influence continues to haunt her daughter, whether through the occasional prison visit or via manipulative letters to Astrid's caretakers. White Oleander received a Gala North American premiere at the 2002 Toronto Film Festival before reaching multiplexes later that fall.
by Michael Hastings synopsis