Featured DVD Review: Flowers in the Attic
April 13th, 2014
Flowers in the Attic started out as a book in 1979 and was first turned into a movie in 1987. This movie earned poor reviews, but did okay business at the box office, mainly because of the controversial nature of the book. Earlier this year, the film was released as a TV movie on Lifetime and brought in more than 6 million viewers to the channel, something none of their original movies from 2013 were able to accomplish. On the other hand, Lifetime's original movies don't exactly have a great reputation and there is already one bad movie based on the book, so my expectations are not exactly high. Is this film a good surprise? Or should I have lowered my expectations more?
The film takes place in the 1950s begins with a voice-over by Cathy, who talks about the color yellow symbolizing hope and how as kids they didn't have hope. (We are also shown the inside of a now deserted house and an attic.) We then flash back to the beginning of the story when Cathy's family, the Dollangangers, were happy. There was her father, Christopher, Sr.; her mother, Corrine; her older brother, Christopher, Jr.; and her young twin siblings, Carrie and Cory. The father is a traveling salesman, so when he returns the family is very excited. He just got a promotion and this is great news, except for Cathy. She's already upset that she doesn't get to see her father enough as it is.
We next see the family preparing for the father's birthday. They are all dressed up in their fanciest clothing, and lots of guests arrive, but the father is late. When they think he finally arrived, it is instead a police officer there to tell them there's been an accident. We flash forward a bit and the family is falling behind on the bills. As a 1950s wife, Corrine doesn't have a lot of marketable skills to help her get a job and the family is deeply in debt. When she's desperate enough, she contacts her parents. Christopher and Cathy didn't even know they had grandparents, because Corrine's parents disowned her and she never spoke of them. But now they've agreed to let her live with them again. (At least that's what she told the children.) The good news is, Corrine's parents are extremely wealthy. The bad news is, they have to leave tonight and they'll have to leave their old life behind, including their old name. Their last name isn't really Dollanganger, it's Foxworth, although Corrine uses a different name on the train.
When they get to the train station to get to Corrine's parents' place, Corrine tells the kids they have to walk. At this point, Cathy is sure something strange is happening, but Christopher still has faith in his mother. When they arrive, Corrine's mother, Olivia, lets them in, but is less than kind about it. With all of the secrets Corrine was keeping from her children, there's one more. Corrine's father doesn't know they are there. Corrine was written out of her father's will when she was 18 and she needs to reconnect with her father before he dies to get her inheritance. She claims it will only take a few days, maybe a week at most. However, she's lied many times in the past.
That is enough of the setup and what happens after that begins to get into spoiler territory.
Flowers in the Attic is based off of a very salacious story and any group of filmmakers that decide to tackle this subject have two options to go with. One, treat it with the utmost respect and try and make an award-worthy movie, which would be hard and likely still fail, because the original novel isn't award-worthy. Or two, go for some serious camp and make an over-the-top movie. There's a third option, do neither and create a competently made, but very dull movie. They choose the third option. I've never read the book, but I've read reviews that complain about the weak dialogue, and that is certainly the case with this movie. Weak dialogue hurts the acting, as the cast has very little to work with. Ellen Burstyn is menacing, but in a rather one-note way. If you were to be kind, Mason Dye is stoic, or to be more accurate, rather dull. (It's only his third role, so I don't know if it is the writing, directing, or the acting that is at fault here.) Heather Graham's performance is rather empty, but that does fit the character. Only Kiernan Shipka comes across as empathetic enough to care about. As for the ending, the movie just sort of ends. There's no real climax here (the big escape is certainly not exciting enough to be called a climax) and the movie ends on a voice over. They did this because there are four more books in the series and they are already working on the sequel. So there couldn't be closure, but this further hurt the film.
The only extra on the DVD is a 13-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.
Flowers in the Attic takes a salacious story and turns it into a well-made, but ultimately dull and pointless movie. There are not enough extras on the DVD to compensate, but if you really liked the book, perhaps it is still worth a rental.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Filed under: Video Review