White Oleander is presented in a nicely done anamorphic widescreen transfer in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. (Warner also has a fullscreen version of the film available as a separate selection, so make sure that you check the widescreen/fullscreen banner when picking up the disc.) In short, this is simply another in a long line of fine offerings from the studio and Warner does nothing here to sully their fine reputation.
The master print seems to be is excellent condition and overall, the image was very tight, defined, and detailed. The film contained a very bold and vivid color palette with some very intentional and very filter-heavy scenes. White Oleander manages to maintain a somewhat soft appearance by design and it’s evident that grain was not the overriding factor in the vast majority of these scenes. Balance and contrast are right on the money, without any smearing or oversaturation noted and fleshtones were always accurate and very natural looking. Black levels were absolutely solid throughout and allowed for excellent shadow detail and delineation, as well as a very three-dimensional, film-like appearance.
Flaws in the transfer were noted, but none were of the distracting variety or took anything away from the viewer’s enjoyment of the film. Edge enhancement was seen on a few occasions throughout White Oleander, as was a bit of a grain that softened up the image somewhat. (FYI - The opening scroll for the film contained some very noticeable grain and was probably the worst offender of the bunch.) Because the film was so recently released, flakes and flecks on the print were practically non-existent and there were no serious print flaws to be found. Surprisingly, I noted a very quick instance of compression artifacting, but it was of the “blink and you’ll miss it” variety. For the most part, the film looked as it should and fans of White Oleander should be pleased with Warner’s results.
Warner has done another outstanding job handling the DVD technical aspects for one of its films and in the case of White Oleander, everything looks magnificent. The studio rarely missteps when it comes to a video transfer and this one is no different. Very nice job.
Warner presents White Oleander in a surprisingly strong Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, as well as French. Given the film’s genre, most of you probably aren’t expecting a whole lot and while White Oleander doesn’t stack up against action blockbusters and the like, it’s somewhat notable considering the genre.
The audio exhibited excellent dynamics and fidelity throughout the entire running time of the film, although most of that was found in the front surrounds. While the rear surrounds were only used for general ambience and for propping up certain aspects of Thomas Newman’s impressive score, the front surrounds got the majority of the workout, as the film was very forward centric. Separation and panning were very discrete, natural, and clean, while dialogue was always front, center, and easily understood at all times. Thankfully, there was never any harshness or edginess detected at any time in the track. Again, Thomas Newman’s score was quite enjoyable and Warner’s transfer really accentuated the pleasing soundtrack.
While there weren’t any impressive or bombastic effects to be found in the film, the mix was notable for the discrete atmospheric effects that were found from time to time. While the rear surrounds could never be considered overly active, there are some very subtle and restrained moments contained within that were quite nice. Not the best I’ve ever heard, but again, very nice for the genre.
If you need ‘em, Warner has also included English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
While White Oleander didn’t do bang-up business at the box office, Warner has still offered up a nice selection of extras in order to supplement the film. While no one would confuse this disc with one of Warner’s other, quite excellent SE’s, it’s still quite a nice selection all things considered.
Starting things off is a Cast & Crew section that lists filmographies for the principals in the film including Alison Lohman (Astrid Magnussen), Robin Wright Penn (Starr), Michelle Pfeiffer (Ingrid Magnussen), Renee Zellweger (Claire Richards), Billy Connolly (Barry Kolker), Patrick Fugit (Paul Trout), Cole Hauser (Ray), and Noah Wyle (Mark Richards). Those listed under the “Crew” section were Janet Fitch (Novel Author), Mary Agnes Donoghue (Screenwriter), John Wells (Producer), Hunt Lowry (Producer), and Peter Kosminsky (Director).
Next is a feature length Commentary with director Peter Kosminsky, author Janet Fitch, and producer John Wells. This was quite a nice selection of participants, but unfortunately, Kosminsky dominates the majority of the commentary. While he offers up some nice insight into many aspects of the film, it would have been nice to hear a few more of Fitch’s thoughts on the film and the adaptation of her book. While screenwriting topics were discussed, I would have simply liked to have heard more and while I think the commentary suffered somewhat because of Fitch’s lack of input, it still offered up a decent dialogue about the film itself. There were admittedly a few slow spots during the commentary, but otherwise, Kosminsky offered up some nice anecdotes from behind-the-scenes, as well as his thoughts on adapting Fitch’s story to the big screen. Fitch discusses being involved with the screenwriting process, while Wells covers general production issues encountered while making the film and while it’s not the best commentary I’ve listened to in a while, it manages to bring out some interesting conversation about the film.
Additional Scenes (5:51) are next and here, we have six deleted scenes that run in succession without any sort of optional commentary from the filmmakers or individual menu selection for the scenes themselves. The scenes were a nice inclusion, as they offered up a bit more insight into Astrid’s relationships with her foster families and while there was nothing earth shattering included, the scenes were all well worth the minimal time investment required to check them out. All of the scenes were presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and it’s obvious no touch-up work was done whatsoever.
I’ll list them together only because they’re so darn similar - The Journey of White Oleander (13:02) and The Making of White Oleander (11:32). Ultimately, both were nothing more than the generic and highly promotional EPK material we’ve all seen time and time again. Clips from the film are interspersed with interview snippets from the principals and clips from behind-the-scenes. Unfortunately, there’s nothing incredibly astounding to be gleaned from these supplements, as they represent nothing more than the standard-fare “First Look” material.
Finishing off the DVD is the film’s Theatrical Trailer and while White Oleander isn’t loaded to the gills, there’s enough here that fans of the book and fans of the film should be pacified. While I would have liked to have seen a bit more about Fitch’s rapid rise to best-seller and “Oprah Book Club Selection”, what’s included was a nice glossing-over of what went on behind-the-scenes of White Oleander. Nice job – as usual – from the folks at Warner Brothers.
I really enjoyed the film although I had never seen it before watching it for review purposes here at DVDMG. While it doesn’t rank up there as a sight-unseen purchase, I’d highly suggest a weekend rental for the curious. If you saw the film in theaters and enjoyed it – or read the book and haven’t seen the film – Warner’s film is faithful to Fitch’s vision and the DVD is quite strong in the areas that matter. White Oleander is quite an easy purchase decision for fans of the story and/or the film itself.