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White Oleander (2002), PG-13
Analysis Date: October 11, 2002
CAP Score: 21
CAP Influence Density: 2.06
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WHITE OLEANDER (PG-13) -- The MPAA has gone daft. There is no other explanation.
Production: Gaylord Films, John Wells Productions, Oleandor Productions, Warner Bros.
Distribution: Gaylord Pictures
Director(s): Peter Kosminsky
Producer(s): Stacy Cohen, E.K. Gaylord II, Kristin Harms, Hunt Lowry, Patrick Markey, Ilyse A. Reutlinger, Tracy Underwood, John Wells
Written by/Screenplay: Janet Fitch (novel), Mary Agnes Donoghue (screenplay)
Cinematography/Camera: Elliot Davis
Music: Thomas Newman
Film Editing: Chris Ridsdale
Casting: Ellen Lewis
Production Design: Donald Graham Burt
Art Direction: Anthony R. Stabley
A murderous mother teaches her teen daughter evil and bitter things and sexual immorality, even from prison.
Atop each online analysis report page I warn readers that these analysis reports may be spoilers. I am not going to be concerned about spoiling anything in this movie because of the vileness of it. This movie is an extremely well made and touching, symapthy-generating lie, depending heavily on the sensationalism of capitalizing on the deeds of a few corrupt people, ignoring the hard-working and caring men and women who are sincere, thus glamorizing the evil at the expense of the good. Indeed, calling that which is good evil [Isa. 5:20].
The MPAA has gone daft. There is no other explanation. This movie is NOT PG-13! It is mathematically equivalent in magnitude to hardcore R due to the plethora of lesser "pieces and parts." Not in boldness of individual examples of ignominy as is typical of most R-rated movies but in the sheer volume of issues of abuse of morality and decency. Further, this movie can and probably will fortify and strengthen any barriers the viewer already has against matters of Jesus , fostercare and sexual purity. And if the viewer has no perception or weak perceptions of such issues, this movie will probably build a false foundation or corrupt a foundation under development. The only understanding many youth have about Jesus , fostercare and sexual issues comes from entertainment anyway. And having been a foster/adoptive parent providing 24-7 care to 26 kids over 11 years and having been a Christian for much longer, I can give you credible truth that this movie corrupts reality for the sake of entertainment drama and sensationalism. White Oleander is as poisonous to the understanding of righteous reality as the White Oleander is to humans. Maybe there is intended irony to the quintessential evil one in this movie being a grower of White Oleanders.
Fifteen year old Astrid Magnussen (Alison Lohman in an outstanding performance of great versatility) is living with her mother ... again. Shortly after Astrid's birth her mother, Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer who was, as were all other characters, carried by Lohman) preferred all-day sex over caring for an infant. One day some years later, as unmarried Ingrid drove to her latest lover's house she made Astrid wait in the car as Ingrid ostensibly went into the man's house for sex. At least that is what Astrid was made to believe. That is only one of a plethora of examples of this mother teaching her daughter sexual immorality [Luke 17:2]. Only one of many. And sexual immorality is not the only evil Ingrid taught Astrid.
With her mother convicted of murder [Exod. 20:13], Astrid is cast adrift in the sea of child protective services -- cast into the fostercare system. The first of the fostercare providers Astrid encounters is loud-mouthed, ex-stripper, exhibitionist, crack-shot, drunk, unmarried "Christian" Starr (Robin Wright Penn) who lives with Ray (Cole Hauser), a married man who develops a sexual interest in Astrid. Starr has a daughter, Carolee (Liz Stauber) a little older than Astrid who announces the only thing their preacher is interested in is Starr's posterior. A delightful family indeed in Starr and her daughter. Starr is a Bible-quoting, born-again Christian. The first thing she asks Astrid in a gleeful and welcoming manner is "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?" Starr is one of the purest examples of the conditional Christian - acting Christian only when acting Christian does not get in the way. Starr is quick with a verse, quick with the temper and as quick with a gun. She is jealous, ill-tempered, vile, violent, mean, vengeful and vulgar. Starr slaps Carolee around until Carolee threatens her life. When Starr sees Ray's sexual interest in Astrid, Starr shoots her amid a barrage of vulgar and hateful verbal attacks on both Ray and Astrid [Matt. 18:10]. A fine example of a Christian woman indeed. This subplot in White Oleander is cynematic cyanide to the perception of the Christian. A favorite technique of many modern filmmakers. A lie.
And Penn's performance was not the only corruption of matters of faith and God. Pfeiffer adds her two bits, too. "If there is a God He sure ain't worth praying to. I raised you, not a bunch of Bible-thumpin' trailer trash. I raised you to think for yourself." "If thinking for yourself is evil, every artist is evil. [Note: Art is not sin. Sin is not art. Art becomes sin when it uses sin.] Is that what you believe now that you've been brainwashed in the Blood of the Lamb?" So, in the view of the script writers, Christians are apparently incapable of thinking for ourselves. I wonder if they know how it takes thinking for ourselves to accept Christian from the myriad of false "religions" after us to follow them which, like this movie, speak of many self-serving strange teachings in fine-sounding argumentation and smooth talk to draw people away from Christ. [Col. 2:4, Acts 20:30, Rom. 16:17 - 18, Hebr. 13:9]
The second foster family Astrid encounters is a well-to-do married couple. The husband is Mark Richards (Noah Wyle), a successful entertainment mogul of some kind. His wife is Claire (Renée Zellweger), portrayed as a weak and insecure "sponge" to Mark. Mark is unfaithful to Claire and leaves her while Astrid is soaking it all up. Astrid also has to soak up Claire's suicide by overdose [Exod. 20:13]. Another fine step in Astrid's journey through adolescence caused by her mother's selfishness which no adolescent should have to make.
The third fostercare provider Astrid must deal with is a Russian American clothes scavenger with two daughters, one pregnant. The influence of these folks is coy and deceitful practices. And goth.
After the third fostercare failure in a row, Astrid submits to group home and learns prison-quality ethics which is yet another issue of manufactured entertainment sensationalism. One of which is how to counter-threaten. After being beaten by one of the "inmate" girls Astrid threatens the girl in her sleep with a knife to her throat threatening to kill her if the girl ever touches her again. Now Astrid has become a well-rounded woman of the world and ends up living with one of the guys she met at the group home. All because of her mother's selfishness.
If you try to use White Oleander as an aide in teaching values and morality to your children, you have a hard road ahead. There are a couple examples of strength and virtue, but just a couple. For example, though Astrid agreed to lie to the courts about her mother's accountability in the murder of her mother's paramour, Ingrid did not let her lawyer call Astrid to the stand and took the full punishment for her crime. Ingrid "voluntarily" took the sentence that could have been avoided if Astrid had lied. In another example of positive performance, to Ingrid's teachings of bitterness and opportunistic self-protectiveness Astrid discovered "Those people (Christians) are not the enemy, mother. We are. They don't hurt us. We hurt them." The film also spends a great deal of energy in portraying how our decisions can and do affect the lives of others., whether for good or ill.
There is much more to the vileness of this film but enough is enough. My words are not good enough to accurately describe the unsettling darkness of this film. Any entertainment value or redemption value of this film is up to you if you decide that which we reveal about it is acceptable. I applaud Lohman's performance and marvel at her acting genius but wish she hadn't. I wish she had not given this performance for her own sake and for the sake of your daughters who watch this film who will surely be emboldened by it, whether acted on or not.
In addition to that which is discussed so far, White Oleander brings at least 18 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary with a teen speaking one of them [Col. 3:8, Titus 2:6-8], 13 uses of God's name in vain (three with the four letter expletive) [Deut. 5:11] and one use of the most foul of the foul words. I will emphasize that this film brings to you example after example of sexual immorality . [Rev. 21:8, Gal. 5:19] Through the only example of nudity is thong underwear on a woman, there are many other examples of immorality such as exposing teen girls in their very brief underwear, sexual comments and talk, sounds of intercourse and ghosting of teenage female anatomy through thin clothing. The rather lengthy listing in the Findings/Scoring section (longer than that for many R-rated movies) will provide all that was noted.
If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.
*******Food for Daily Thought*******
As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
Offense to God (O)(2):
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|NOTE: The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. This is NOT a movie review service. It is a movie analysis service to parents and grandparents to tell them the truth about movies using the Truth.|
|"There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our nearly seven years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.|