Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
I have never read Flowers In The Attic. It is a sad truth, but I want to be up front about that. Let the hordes of V.C. Andrews acolytes have at me, but I never knew the icky joy of rereading passages of incestuous passion under the covers with a flashlight. My adolescent years leaned toward holocaust literature and that bizarre niche of the YA demographic that featured titles like Sixteen And Dying and Letting Go Of Lisa. So, who's the real sicko?
Still, when I sat down to watch Lifetime's adaptation of Flowers In The Attic, I knew what I was getting into. I was pumped! Finally, I'd get to see what everyone had been talking about: psycho grandmas, secret poisonings, and, of course, lots and lots of brother-sister doin' it. Hopefully, it wasn't too late for my own sexuality to be warped like all my friends'. Sadly, I emerged from this screening completely unscandalized.
The story, brought to you by the letter C, revolves around the
Foxworth Dollanganger children, Cathy, Christopher, Cory, and Carrie, as well as their mother, Corrine (Heather Graham). Graham, apparently trained exclusively at the Dramatic Academy of Eyeball-Bulging, leads the crazy train on this wild adventure; although, she's soon supplanted by a 13-year-old. It's Kiernan Shipka (definitely not Sally Draper, though the wardrobe and hairstyles might tell you different) as Cathy who quickly becomes both the head of this film and the head of her family. When Daddy Dollanganger dies, Corrine sits her kids down on the sofa and explains in one breath that their names are different, her entire family doesn't know they exist, and they're in debt up to their bulging eyeballs. Also, they're moving RIGHT NOW.
Cut to, literally, an hour later and the Dollanganger fam arrives at their heretofore unknown grandmother's house. If it wasn't yet clear why Corrine didn't tell them about her super-rich mom, it's obviously because this lady is a complete dick. Ellen Burstyn, an actual actress, has no problem going craggy — and in this role she's hit peak crag. "Frownier!" I imagined the director shouting. "Stodgier, Ellen, for the last time!" The deal, explained as fast as Corrine's sofa chat, is that Grandfather is dying and cannot know these kids exist because they were "born evil." 'kay.
Grateful just to have beds to sleep in, the kids are pretty chill about Grandma tossing them into one bedroom that only locks from the outside and just happens to be attic-adjacent. Then, she makes it weird by saying something like, "Goodnight, don't have sex with each other!" and the countdown to incest begins (in my head).
Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
You know the rest: One night becomes a month becomes a year. Mom shows up from time to time promising that they can leave the attic super-duper soon, as soon as Dying Grandfather finally effing dies. Puberty hits the attic hard, and Grandma's hanky-panky prediction comes to awkward, elbowy fruition. Then, suddenly, it appears the downstairs gang is sick of supporting their attic tenants and decides to get rid of them once and for all. An escape plan is hatched, and the blondies stage a breakout. Aaaaaand scene.
If this sounds a little less thrilling than you'd hoped from a Lifetime adaptation of a pulpy YA novel starring Heather Eyeballs Graham — that's because it is. Still enjoyable, especially when watched with a group of your closest, tipsy-est friends, Flowers In The Attic is not entirely so-bad-it's-good as I would have liked. The moments of terrible acting and scripts are punctuated by occasional moments of decent performance (mostly by Burstyn and Shipka), and that makes for a confusing dynamic. Still, I do recommend a viewing, if only because Lifetime just announced it will be adapting the sequel, Petals In The Wind, making promising claims like: "The incest is dialed up to 11."