Flowers in the Attic

Corrine: "Try not to make your grandmother angry."

Incest. Imprisonment. Child abuse. What more could you ask for in a Lifetime movie?

I haven’t read the book or seen the original movie, and I’m willing to bet there were multiple scenes that would’ve had a greater impact if I had a few pages of detail and exposition going into it.

That being said… I liked this movie. I didn’t love it. There were definitely things that could’ve been improved upon. Like Cathy, I kept wondering “why are we still here?” Especially after it was clear their mother wasn’t looking out for them anymore and they figured out how to escape out the window. The shortcomings of this movie can probably be mostly attributed to time and budget constraints, but I really wish I could've gotten a little more invested in the hopelessness of their situation. How amazing is Ellen Burstyn, though?? She did a fabulous job in this role. Speaking of…

Olivia and Corrine

I found the writing for the grandmother to be really predictable as the religious nut with a love of corporal punishment, but Ellen Burstyn’s acting chops cannot be denied. She nailed it. From the moment she stepped onscreen she was mean, frigid and threatening. Grams did have a few shiny moments of humanity though, didn’t she? When she warned them not to eat the doughnuts and when she brought flowers for the attic garden and she is the one that brought them food while Corrine was busy seducing Daddy Foxworth. For a second there I thought she might redeem herself and turn out to be the hero in the whole mess. Olivia’s internal struggle to keep seeing the children as evil instead of as part of her family was maybe the only thing that was done extremely well. Alas, as soon as Cathy decided they should make her a Christmas present it was clear she was never going to be the ally her grandkids needed. That’s the nice thing about not having read the books yet… the ending wasn’t spoiled.

Heather Graham was my least favorite actor in this movie. Almost every line was delivered flat and wide eyed like Corrine was confused about what was going on. Even when she cried she had a look on her face as if she didn’t know why she was so upset. I was equally confused.

The Dolls

I found Cathy and Christopher to be the most engaging. Probably because they were the only ones trying to tell the story while everyone else just flitted on and off the screen. In the beginning at least, Christopher took his cues from Mom, but Cathy took her cues from Christopher. I don’t think she would have stayed one night in that house if Christopher hadn’t remained so calm. Kiernan Shipka played the part in a way that we could see how much she relied on her brothers’ opinion to form her own and how being stuck in the attic just intensified her dependency. She knew long before Christopher did that they could only trust each other, but still she had to wait for him to jump onboard.

Christopher’s transformation was hands down the most profound. After his father died, he took over as man of the house. He supported his mother mentally and emotionally and even offered to help pay bills. When he and his siblings were locked away, he stepped in as cheerleader and protector and whatever else he could do to take care of them. When he lost all hope of his mother ever coming back for them, he formed a plan and put it into motion. Cathy was the driving force behind their escape and Christopher was the vehicle got them out. Mason Dye did pretty well with showing us Christopher’s journey. I just wish there was more depth, but I could say that about practically the whole movie so I’ll move right along.

I didn’t realize any of them were sick (you know, other than being underfed and held as prisoners) so Cory’s fate took me by surprise. I naturally assumed their thin sunken faces and pale complexion was due to lack of fresh and sunshine. That moment when the three children just stared at each other after learning what happened to their brother was very well done. It lasted less than a second, but it was a kind of emptiness that came through. Like they knew they could never be whole again. A realization that they had missed whatever chance they had to all get out together. It was sad. Cory’s death was one of the only two impacts the twins had on the story. They just sort of floated around painting flowers, befriending mice and being told they needed fresh air and sunshine.

The Incest

Did Cathy’s father give her a promise ring? They really laid on the incest creep right from the beginning, didn’t they?

Was Mommy dearest having an affair with her father as well as her uncle? If not an affair, was she a victim of child molestation? Is that why Olivia was so angry? I guess your husband preferring your daughters’ bed to yours would be a bit of a downer. Is that why her father disinherited her? She cheated on her dad with his brother. Oy vey.

I think Corrine really bought that skimpy present for Christopher, and gave it to Cathy to wear for him. Ew. In my notes I wrote “Did she just pimp out her daughter to her son?” Cathy and Christopher’s relationship turning sexual was seen a long way off since Olivia kept bringing it up. As a rule, hooking up with your sibling is a bad idea. However, this act of rebellion though, is really what gave them enough courage to make the key, steal the money and ultimately run away.

Bits and Pieces

Those opening scenes before Christopher Sr. died were shot very well. All bright sunshiny happiness of an all-American family. I half expected them to break out in song and dance the second time I watched it. The juxtaposition against Foxworth Hall’s almost gothic feel made losing the life they had seem that much more tragic.

Corrine's dad wasn’t in the story much, but just imagine the kind of man that would marry Olivia and raise Corinne. Ugh. I just got a shudder.

Why was Olivia bald? Is that why she put tar in Cathy’s hair?? Are all of Olivia’s insane actions due to jealousy?

Where did Christopher get the magazine with the girls in it? Grandma?

Who was cutting the kids hair? Christopher is the only one we saw with scissors, but I greatly question his skill.

Giant kudos to the make-up/wardrobe crew. The kids looked just like dolls and Olivia looked terrifying.

I hear Lifetime has plans to make Petals in the Wind, which is the sequel to Flowers in the Attic.

I already ordered the first two books in V.C. Andrews Dollanganger series.

Quotes

Cathy: “People use yellow to symbolize hope. We never painted any of our flowers yellow.”

Corrine: “I promise all of your dreams are gonna come true.”

Olivia: “Give it to me now. Or do I have to speak more slowly." *shaking fist*

Carrie: “When are we going to outgrow stuff?”

Olivia: “I make the rules in this house. And I carry out the punishment.”

Olivia: “Why did you do that? Don’t close the door! I need the door to be open! Why did you do that? Open the door! NO! Don’t turn out the light!”

Claustrophobia being the Achilles’ heel of the person that held you captive for years has a nice ring to it, right?

7 comments:

Josie Kafka said...

Great review, LaureMack!

I did read the book (and most of the books in the series) at an impressionable junior-high age; they made the rounds at my school and we all went a little crazy for a bit.

This movie was quite tame compared to the wild ride of the books, which I suppose is not surprising: it's one thing to read about this stuff, but you just can't portrayal underaged incest on TV. (Which is a good thing.)

If you get a chance to read the books for cheap or very little money, I recommend reading at least the first one. It is by far the silliest thing you will ever read.

LaureMack said...

Thanks Josie.

Was the movie all that you hoped it would be?

I already ordered the first and second book!

Marjorine Bailey said...

Thank you LaureMack for your intelligent review of Flowers in the Attic! Most have been along the lines of: "The siblings totally hook up! Gross!" and "It should have been more fun"(!?). Don't forget the wonderful forshadowing with the deer (not in the book but perfectly expressed the slaughter of innocence and innocents).

LaureMack said...

Thanks Marjorine! I'm glad you enjoyed the review.

You're totally right about the deer and symbolism. I can't believe I forgot about that.

Thanks for the comment.

LaureMack said...

Thanks Marjorine! I'm glad you enjoyed the review.

You're totally right about the deer and symbolism. I can't believe I forgot about that.

Thanks for the comment.

Juliette said...

This book was doing the rounds at my new school when I changed schools, and I remember wondering what the heck my new friends were into! Though that didn't stop me reading the first two and edited highlights of the others.

I haven't seen the new one yet, but this story feels so much like it belongs in a rubbish 80s TV movie I'm not sure I want to! I'd recommend catching up on the 80s version, if only for Original Buffy doing the incest and Cory being so creepy (a bit like the blonde curly-haired version of Pubert in Addams Family Values, iirc) that he was unsettling even before he died.

ChrisB said...

You nailed what was both right and wrong about this movie. I didn't get too invested in any of it, I'm afraid, but it was a bit better than I had thought it was going to be. Much of that was due to Ellen Burstyn who was fantastic.

I agree completely that it all went on a bit long. I kept wondering why the kids didn't just make a run for it long before they did.