Source: Stephanie Feagan
And yet, the movie was so bad that it made for a fun viewing experience. Here are the highlights and where the new Flowers in the Attic could have done well to pay closer attention to its source material.
The dark atmosphere
I have to agree with Flavorwire that the adaptation lacked “the book’s curiously dank atmosphere.” Aside from the claustrophobia—which comes into play later—of living in the upstairs room and attic, you didn’t really get the sense that the children’s quarters were a prison. And, as Huffington Post points out, there wasn’t enough contrast with the opulence of Foxworth Hall for you to get a sense of what the kids were missing out on (aside from, you know, fresh air and sunshine).
Creepy family dynamics
Lifetime’s big selling point was that this movie would have 100% more incest than the 1987 version, and they certainly lay that groundwork early, what with Cathy’s dad giving her a promise ring (um) and Corinne kissing her son on the lips.
Even before they move to Foxworth Hall, Cathy and Chris seamlessly shift into parental roles, taking care of the twins. They’re a creepy, golden-haired family. Which brings us to…
Heather Graham’s wooden acting was the most hilarious part of this movie, but then again, Corinne is never presented as a sympathetic character. As my roommate pointed out, Graham is best in ditzy roles like in Austin Powers and The Hangover. Attempting gravitas translated to her blankly reciting to Cathy, “Look at me, I’m an ornament. The only thing I was ever good at was being pretty” and “You’re lucky, you have a dad who thought you were special.”
Source: Tumblr/Vogue Weekend
Ellen Burstyn was such inspired casting as religious, hell-hath-no-fury Grandmother Olivia—but even she fell short of our expectations. She was creepiest in her most fervent moments, where she’d lurk in the doorway trying to catch Chris and Cathy feeling each other up.
On the flipside, when she brought them “real flowers for your fake garden,” you couldn’t help but get a little bit choked up. As Corinne withdrew into her materialistic life and became more ruthless in hiding—and getting rid of—her illegitimate children, the grandmother became slightly more sympathetic. Still, this performance was nowhere near as nuanced as Burstyn’s work in Requiem for a Dream or even Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
Source: Comic Book Movie
How Flowers in the Attic handled the book’s incest was another example of the trailer being better than the movie. When we got our first look at the film, with Cathy whispering, “You think I’m pretty?” while a haunting cover of “Sweet Child of Mine” plays, it was wonderfully shiver-inducing. But, while they set up the inevitable brother/sister romance with plenty of creepy foreshadowing, when it got down to it, things were pretty tame.
Source: Tumblr/The Daily Dot
But especially problematic was that what we did see was presented as entirely consensual. The book, by contrast, contains a rather harrowing rape scene where a desperate Chris forces himself on Cathy. Sure, it’s Lifetime, and they can only go so far, but for us to get the typical “kiss and fade to black” kind of scene completely misrepresents what happens between Cathy and Chris.
Go, Cathy! You slap your mom and try to whip your grandmother! After all this, you’ve earned it.
To be fair, it’s pretty underwhelming in the book, when the kids discover that Corinne and her new husband have up and left Foxworth Hall. That’s the straw that finally inspires Cathy and Chris to take Carrie and run. So, Cathy getting the chance to slap Corinne was cathartic for all of us. And shortly after, in the only truly scary part of the movie, the grandmother tries to chase them up to the attic, only for the kids to lock her in the dark stairwell where she stands, paralyzed. For Ellen Burstyn to be taken down by a bout of claustrophobia, after all this, is the kind of ridiculous detail Lifetime movies are known for.
Then, aside from some expository voiceover about escaping, it’s all over. Probably because Lifetime has already greenlit the sequel, Petals in the Wind. But I’m not sure I’d be willing to watch it.
What did you think of Flowers in the Attic?