Lifetime aired their version of the 1979 V.C. Andrews novel “Flowers in the Attic” on Saturday, January 18. You know, that book all girls were told by their mothers to stay away from until they were old enough?
“Flowers” is the story of the seemingly perfect Dollanganger children, Cathy, Chris, Cory and Carrie who, after their father passes away, are forced to move into their grandmother’s house. Nana’s house of horrors begins when the children are locked away in the attic while their mother attempts to gain the family inheritance.
The TV movie brought in 6.1 million viewers, but the network’s remake failed to live up to the sexy and scandalous novel.
“Flowers” is supposed to send viewers on an emotional roller coaster like the novel did. Feelings of disgust, joy, desperation and sadness were lacking from the remake. The novel is most known for touching on the controversial subjects of incest, child abuse and religious condemnation–this is not the kind of movie that can be fluffed up.
Lifetime does its best to stay close to the novel without completely scarring any young viewers that may be watching. The film received a TV-14 rating when the actual content could be rated R in theaters. The network danced around the topic of “forbidden love” that is the cornerstone of the novel, which is like watching “Harry Potter” without the magic.
“Flowers” is an unusual choice for a cable network to produce. We all know that Lifetime loves an insane plot, but the risque content in the novel is not something that can be taken lightly.
The network cut out a few scenes, most likely because of their graphic nature. In the novel, when the youngest son Cory gets sick, Chris gives Cory his blood to help him feel better. While this “True Blood” like moment was not crucial to the overall plot, it shows how desperate the children became while living in the attic.
Aside from straying from then novel, Lifetime could have cast the film better. The children’s mother, Corrine Dollanganger, is played by Heather Graham, who is best known for her roles as the cute blonde chick in “The Hangover” and “Austin Powers.” Corrine is a vindictive character who ultimately chooses wealth over her own children. Graham was convincing as the sweet mother with a secret but when it came time to turn on her children, she still seemed too sweet. Graham’s acting was stale and a wet cat would have emoted more than she did.
The nature of the story calls for age-appropriate actors to play the older children. 14-year-old Kiernan Shipka, who plays Cathy, was too young for some of the scenes that are in the novel, so Lifetime did some editing.
In the novel, Chris rapes Cathy in a jealous rage after she kisses her mother’s boyfriend. While Shipka does play the outspoken character well, she seemed too innocent for a scene like that, which might be why the network did not include it.
Lifetime did an excellent job, however, in casting Olivia–the children’s grandmother. Ellyn Burstyn’s glare will make you think that you did something to deserve 18 lashes, and adds depth to Olivia’s hatred for her daughter and grandchildren. In typical Lifetime fashion, the movie allowed the children to seek revenge on their evil grandma by locking her in the attic.
Lifetime is already planning on adapting the next book in the series, “Petals in the Wind,” which is even more disturbing than the first. The network will really have to step it up if they want to keep the viewers interested.
The children are much older in the second novel, so they will probably need to completely re-cast the series. That might actually help prevent the same issues Lifetime had with “Flowers in the Attic.”
Speakeasy Grade: B
Starring: Kiernan Shipka, Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn, Mason Dye