Poison Ivy

Director: Katt Shea Ruben
Screenwriters: Katt Shea Ruben

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


Sylvie Cooper is a self-proclaimed “politically/environmentally correct, feminist, poetry-reading type,” the product of an eighties yuppie family, now living among its ghosts: a pill-popping, suicidal mother, bedridden by emphysema, and a quasi-impotent, alcoholic father. When she befriends an alluring classmate from nowhere named Ivy, the Coopers are put on the nineties fast track toward self-destruction. As misunderstood teenage outcasts in the midst of puberty, the girls develop a nearly indestructible friendship that is not without sexual undertones. Cooper is captivated by Ivy’s daring, cunning and self-confidence. Ivy needs Cooper’s admiration and affection, and the security of a home she does not have. A precocious Ivy charms Coop’s parents and maneuvers her way into living in their home. In return she indulges each of Georgie’s needs and Darryl’s avaricious desires, which leads to the family’s disintegration under the weight of their selfishness.

Katt Shea Ruben’s postmodern twist on the Oedipal story is a welcome return for Drew Barrymore as Ivy, the sultry charmer and catalyst of cataclysm. Her layered performance captures an immature, licentious teenager and a dejected, sinister seductress. Cheryl Ladd plays the delicate (and perversely delightful) Georgie, the mother “who spends her life dying.” With its explicit portrayal, the film functions on one level as an erotic thriller. Under Ruben’s direction, Poison Ivy charts a young girl’s introduction to the darkest extremes of human nature.

Screening Details

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