You know something? V.C. Andrews novels just don’t translate to the screen.
“Flowers in the Attic” is somewhat iconic, and as a 12-year-old, I read it and its accompanying books many, many times. I actually read them almost every year; don’t ask me why. I spent a great deal of time tracking down the original books with their peephole covers and those things are PRICELESS to me.
I had high hopes for Lifetime’s adaptation of “Flowers,” because any adaptation is better than the horrible, godawful 1987 version. Unfortunately to a purist like me this movie ain’t gonna cut it. I should know better than to watch a movie adaptation of a book that made an impact in my life, I guess. And don’t be all “INCEST INCEST INCEST” because yeah, that’s part of the series. I REALIZE THAT, GUYS.
Here’s what went wrong:
1. Kiernan Shipka looks nothing like cutout-cover Cathy, the Cathy described in the novels. It isn’t that she isn’t pretty, because she is, but she isn’t the doll-like beauty I imagined Cathy to be. Later in the series, Cathy becomes quite the man-killer (literally) and I couldn’t see Kiernan growing into that. I just never saw “Cathy” in her, not once.
2. Heather Graham. She’s a bad actress. I’m a bad actress too, so it takes one to know one.
3. Foxworth Hall would NEVER have a sign above its door with the name on it. It was a grand mansion with marble staircases, not a home for wayward girls!
4. Do we ever see Cathy dancing? Not really, not enough to prove she’s a real dancer. And that was her main passion, later on her career. And Dr. Christopher is a non-entity.
5. Their hair doesn’t grow even when they’ve been imprisoned for a year. I realize this is a movie, guys. Cathy’s hair is supposed to be down to her waist when the Grandmother cuts it.
6. Coincidentally, their hair is all too dark. The Dollanganger children had super-pale, near platinum hair, well described in the book.
7. The sequence of events is all messed up, which is fine since this is a TV adaptation. But for V.C. purists like me, it’s mind-boggling. Cory doesn’t get locked in the trunk that early in the story!
8. Corrine’s Christmas Ball dress is PIVOTAL and ICONIC in the books. It’s supposed to be emerald green with flowing chiffon panels, not champagne colored. This is important because Cathy duplicates it down to the minute details in “Petals on the Wind.” This is my greatest disappointment with the book. And the Grandmother is supposed to be wearing a low-backed ruby gown with a red wig. JUST SAYING. I pay attention to detail.
9. The starvation scene was pitifully short. That’s supposed to be a traumatic experience in their lives and in the book, Christopher gives the twins his own blood to drink to nourish them! It’s a long, drawn-out scene that I realize was probably cut for brevity. But they consider eating mice! Where was THAT, Lifetime?
10. The attic is all wrong, isn’t it? So is that swing that’s oh-so-conveniently hanging there when we KNOW Christopher worked to hang it. It’s too junky up there, like the idea of an attic, not an actual one.
11. THE TWINS LOOK FINE. They’re supposed to dwindle in size during their stay in the attic and get big heads and tiny bodies for lack of sunshine and fresh air. Also, those children are not actually twins. You can make me believe Theresa from “Long Island Medium” talks to the dead, but you can’t make me believe those kids are twins.
12. WHERE is Corrine’s swan bed? I’ve been dreaming of that swan bed my entire life, with its sleepy ruby eye and wings to hold back filmy bedcurtains. (Am I scaring you with my “Flowers” knowledge yet? To be honest, I just re-read them in preparation for this event.)
13. Cathy always, always called her mother “Momma.” Never “Mom.” All V.C. heroines call their mothers “Momma.” This is important.
14. “How to Create Your Own Needlework Designs” was a real sex book in Corrine’s room, featuring real adult couples boning. Not Biblical paintings.
14. The actual sex scene was not sweet like this was. It was actually a rape. Ummmm. It was traumatic for Chris AND Cathy. There was no “Let’s go to Florida” pillow talk. That was weird. Really weird, Lifetime.
15. There is no electric fence around Foxworth Hall! Let’s not add needless drama in a movie about imprisoned children, incest and a mother who poisons her kids. I mean, really.
16. I’m not surprised the ending was all wrong. I guess we DID require silly, needless drama in a movie about imprisoned children and incest. In the book, Cathy, Chris and Carrie simply escape down the roof. There’s no dramatic, overwrought Grandmother chase scene ending with her begging for forgiveness. I’m disappointed.
Here’s what went right:
1. Ellen Burstyn. That steel-wool wig was perfect. Her cheekbones are perfect. She is perfect.