Top cheese network Lifetime’s much anticipated adaptation of the salacious, incest riddled, melodramatic V.C. Andrews classic Flowers in the Attic premiered last night and with it came the collective release of many a bated breath for all those who devoured the Dollanganger series under the covers, late at night, flashlight in hand. Or, if you were me, openly, in the family room while your multitude of brothers watched some sports related movie and your mother took it at face value when you told her the book was about a girl growing a garden in an attic. Regardless, it’s almost a right of passage for thirteen-year-olds the world over to get their hands on a copy and blush over its many indecencies.
So it comes as no surprise that many a person was looking forward to spending a cold Saturday night in January at home, on the couch, to watch Don Draper’s daughter (Kiernan Shipka) take the lead as Cathy Dollanganger as she stumbles into a world of child abuse and ugh, brother lovin’.
And that’s okay, I won’t lie, I was one of those people. I even had a reminder set up on the TV. I watched, I shuddered, I laughed at the terribly bad acting, I felt strange disappointment that it wasn’t as blatantly prurient as I expected. Which says a lot about where my mind was at. (This is obviously something one shouldn’t freely admit to but it’s done, and I’m obviously too lazy to hold down the delete key so the admission stays!)
According to People magazine (that triumph in journalism) Lifetime’s Flowers in the Attic is “a gripping, psychologically coherent foray into American Gothic” I would say that was reaching. I don’t think people expect much from a Lifetime TV movie apart from excessive melodrama and questionable acting. And really that’s the beauty of Lifetime. So Flowers in the Attic found its perfect home. And offered the chance for someone to finally answer the question: What does melodrama + melodrama =? Sadly it would seem the answer is not Uber-melodrama but rather a strange struggle between putting it all out there and maintaining some element of timidity.
So let’s set it up to knock it all down shall we?
Oh Heather Graham, oh dear, dear, dear Heather Graham – she was kind of everything I wanted Corrine to be. Just vacuous. Vacuous with seedy undertones. A lot of people said her acting was awful. I agree, but I’d like to pretend that it was intentional. That the terrible acting was just an element of the character, who spent all of her life acting a certain way to get what she wants – that effusive happiness, all that child-like joyful innocence, none of it’s real. It’s all an act. Because deep down Corrine’s just as bat shit crazy as her bible thumping mother Olivia. It’s delightful.
The Dresden Dolls: Cathy, Christopher, Cory and Carrie
I’d like to thank the writer/writers for limiting the amount of lines given to the creepy Children of the Corn twins because every time they opened their mouths I couldn’t help but think “It’s quite possible I’d have locked them in the attic too.” Obviously I wouldn’t. But sometimes the thought is enough to satisfy.
I will give praise where praise is due, it can’t be easy for two young actors like Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper guys. Sally freaking Draper) and Mason Dye (who let’s be honest is kind of dreamy in that whole clean cut, I’m on the row team and wear sweaters tied around my shoulders Yale graduate way) to take on roles that involve sibling lustin’, I mean I think if that were me I’d have spent all of my time giggling uncomfortably. But they did it, and I say this with a limited amount of irony, with class? If that’s possible.
And then there’s Ellen Burstyn – no one plays crazy old lady quite like her. Every time she uttered “Remember, God sees everything” I expected fire and brimstone. And though in the end it’s really awesomely ridiculous that a tiny hallway leading to the attic acts as her downfall, Burstyn plays it so beautifully you almost feel bad for dear ol’ granny. And then you remember that whole crazy abusing, locking her grandchildren in a room for years, calling them abominations and devil spawn thing and then you laugh because really Flowers in the Attic is amazing.
It’s so good guys. It’s just so bad it’s good. I love it. I’m obsessed. There’s so much crazy coming from all the adults and so much temperance from the kids, it’s like a weird Freaky Friday but with incest. Which isn’t cool but you know you read the books because of it. And watched the movie to see how it was done. And in the movie it just kind of happens. Like it was inevitable and so you know there you go. It was almost offensive in how seemingly accepting Cathy and Chris are about it. And okay there are many issues with how it happens in the book (that whole Cathy blaming herself for her brother raping her thing, definitely some sort of latent anti-rational thought on V.C. Andrews part) but the movie kind of made it seem romantic? I put a question mark there because ew.
As far as adaptations go though this one really did try to maintain the integrity of the original work, which I really appreciate. It’s definitely miles ahead of the dreadful 1987 film starring the original Buffy (Kristy Swanson) and Troy’s friend from The Goonies. It’s like cheesecake, you know it’s going to go straight to your thighs but you’re all “whatever” cause it’s delicious. But then after you’ve eaten the whole thing you can’t help but feel sick at how much you enjoyed it.
So in honour of the best piece of ridiculous, gothic horror, young adult melodrama out there let’s bask in this gem from the original book, and raise a glass to V.C. Andrews and her strange, twisted, over-the-top, theatrical stories of crazy, rich white people.
“There is no hate such as that born out of love betrayed- and my brain screamed out for revenge.” And cue Petals in the Wind.