For the DC Comics character of the same name, see Poison Ivy (DC Comics character)

Poison Ivy is a 1992 American drama-thriller film, directed by Katt Shea, starring Drew Barrymore, Sara Gilbert, Tom Skerritt and Cheryl Ladd.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Sylvie Cooper (Sara Gilbert) is a teenage girl at a private school for the wealthy. She first meets Ivy (Drew Barrymore), a street smart, but poor and trashy girl at a local hangout where Ivy enjoys rope-swinging from a tree.

A young boy runs up and says, "Come on! A dog got hit!" Sylvie kneels next to the still-breathing dog when all of a sudden, Ivy crushes the dog's skull with a pipe to put it out of its misery. While sitting in the office for phoning in a bomb threat to a local television station that her father works for, Sylvie sees Ivy walk in and begins to talk to her.

Later that day, when Sylvie's father picks her up, Ivy asks for a ride. At first, Sylvie's father Darrel is reluctant, but he grudgingly compromises. Ivy tells Sylvie she gets car-sick and asks to ride in the front. This is actually a ruse to get nearer to Darrel, as Ivy has an interest in older men. Ivy puts her feet on the dashboard and allows her mini-skirt to fall back onto her hip, revealing her legs. Darrel notices this.

A few weeks later, after Sylvie is no longer grounded, she and Ivy meet again at the same hangout. They walk to Sylvie's house together. On the way, Sylvie tells Ivy that Darrel is her adoptive father and that her biological father is African-American. She also says that she once tried to kill herself. Sylvie invites Ivy into her parents' mansion. They walk into the living room which overlooks the San Fernando Valley.

Ivy says that if she were to kill herself, she'd like to fall. Sylvie's sickly mother, Georgie, walks in on their conversation, and it turns out that Sylvie was actually lying about her attempted suicide and her father. Georgie does not want Sylvie to be friends with Ivy initially, but Ivy later wins Georgie over by talking about her scholarship and helping her unblock her oxygen tank.

In the narration, Sylvie explains that Georgie liked Ivy's energy and both of her parents enjoyed Ivy so much that Ivy practically moved in. Ivy and Sylvie share clothes and sleep in the same bed, and when Georgie offers to lend Ivy some of her clothes because of their similar figures, Ivy begins to wear the expensive clothes.

After a spat with her parents, Sylvie says she wants to do something to "make her parents cringe," and Ivy convinces her to get a tattoo so that "they can be like blood sisters."

Darrel decides to throw a party at his house to try to improve his failing career, and he enlists Sylvie to help him. When Sylvie's boss at the charity center calls, Ivy picks up the phone and tells him that Sylvie can work the night of the party, which allows Ivy to fill in with helping Darrel. She straightens her hair and wears one of Georgie's dresses.

That night, after the party, Ivy dances in the kitchen and then begins to dance with Darrel. Georgie walks in on them and storms upstairs. While Georgie and Darrel are sitting together, Ivy walks in and apologizes to Georgie, claiming that Darrel came into the kitchen to cry, and that she was only hugging him to make him feel better.

Georgie believes her and accepts a glass of champagne from Ivy. She then falls unconscious because of the pills Ivy put into the champagne beforehand. Ivy sits on the bed next to Georgie and begins to massage Darrel with her foot while he kisses her legs.

Ivy appears to change over the next few days. She continues to straighten her hair and wears more and more of Georgie's clothing. Sylvie becomes increasingly irritated with Ivy and throws a fit when she finds Ivy with her dog in Georgie's sports car. She makes Fred (the dog) choose between her and Ivy.

Ivy cheats and shakes the treats in her pockets while she calls Fred. That day, Sylvie skips school and tries to spend some time alone to sort things out in her head. Darrel picks Ivy up and they go out into the forest where Ivy gets Darrel drunk and they have sex.

The next morning, Georgie plays a record that Sylvie made for her and walks out onto her balcony. Ivy walks up behind her and begins talking to her.

Then, without warning, Ivy pushes Georgie off the balcony and makes it look like a suicide, which Georgie had regularly threatened about.

A few weeks later, Sylvie washes Georgie's old sports car and Ivy walks up with the urn holding Georgie's remains. She suggests that they take a ride as a final goodbye to Georgie. While she's driving, Ivy begins to hum the song that Georgie was playing the morning Ivy pushed her. Sylvie confronts her and Ivy crashes the car to avoid answering. She moves Sylvie into the driver's seat to incriminate Sylvie.

In the hospital, Sylvie hallucinates that her mother is sitting in front of her. This inspires her to get back to her house in an attempt to save her father from Ivy. When she gets to her house there is a raging storm. She runs inside to get out of the rain, experiencing hallucinations all along the way. When she gets inside, she sees Darrel and Ivy having sex and flees the room.

Darrel goes to look for Sylvie and tells Ivy to stay inside. Ivy goes up to Georgie's old room and puts in the tape that was playing the morning Georgie died. She puts on Georgie's robe and walks out onto the balcony. Sylvie is sitting outside in the storm and sees the light, and because of her very serious head injury, believes that it is her mother on the balcony. She goes up to the room. Sylvie sees her mother turn around from the balcony.

Sylvie tells Georgie that she loves her and Georgie says she loves Sylvie too. They kiss, but when Ivy begins to use her tongue, Sylvie comes out of her hallucination and sees that it is really Ivy.

Ivy says how her mother wanted to die and lovingly says how they can all be a family now. Sylvie pushes Ivy off her and onto the balcony, at which point Ivy says how she will take Sylvie with her over the balcony.

Ivy almost falls off the balcony, but manages to keep from falling by holding onto Sylvie's necklace. The chain breaks and Ivy falls to her death while still clutching the necklace. The film ends with Sylvie narrating that she still loves and misses "her," following the parallel between Ivy and Georgie.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Sara Gilbert as Sylvie Cooper
  • Drew Barrymore as Ivy
  • Tom Skerritt as Darryl Cooper
  • Cheryl Ladd as Georgie Cooper

Production[edit | edit source]

The movie was filmed from May 13th to June 28, 1991 in 35 days. The budget was an estimated $3,000,000.

It was loosely based on an experience that producer Melissa Goddard had as a young girl when she invited a friend to stay with her & her family and the friend seduced her father.

The original film titles were "Ivy" and "Our House" before it was eventually named "Poison Ivy."

The Cooper family mansion was filmed at 2208 West Live Oak Drive in Los Feliz in Los Angeles, California and the school scenes were filmed at Alverno High School in Sierra Madre, California.

When Drew Barrymore first auditioned for the role of Ivy, she failed the audition. Director Katt Shea arranged another audition for her because she wanted her to play the lead role, but Drew never showed up.

After the director told Drew's agent that she was not interested in Drew for the lead role, she pleaded with her to give Drew another chance. Drew auditioned for the lead role again at Kat Shea's house unaware that the director had already decided that she had the job.

Originally, Ivy was supposed to live at the end of the film, but New Line Cinema told Kat Shea that they wanted the character to die, so she had to film another ending after the previous one was already completed.

Box Office[edit | edit source]

"Poison Ivy" grossed only $119,840 during its opening weekend, only opening at 20 venues and grossed $1,829,804 domestically.

Critical Reception[edit | edit source]

The movie was given a mixed reception by critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes, it was given an approval rating of 37% based on 27 reviews with an average rating of 4.9\10.

Roger Ebert gave the film three in a half stars, calling it "a movie that never really convinces us it's anything but a lurid wind-up machine with lots of rainy nights and lightning flashes, split-second double-crosses and hysterical upheavals".

Hal Hinson from the Washington Post called the friendship between Sara Gilbert and Drew Barrymore's characters the best part of the movie.

Peter Travers from Rolling Stone magazine said although the movie "sounds like B-movie trash", he also said that it "moves beyond wickedly erotic fun to become an acutely unsettling psychological thriller".

Accolades[edit | edit source]

1992 Sundance Film Festival

  • Grand Jury Prize-Dramatic: Katt Shea (nominated)

1993 Independent Spirit Awards

  • Best Supporting Female: Sara Gilbert (nominated)

Theatrical Trailer[edit | edit source]


Poison Ivy Trailer

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