Review of "Flowers in the Attic" on Lifetime From The TV MegaSite

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Flowers in the Attic

"Flowers in the Attic" review by Sundi 12/28/13
Premieres January 18, Saturday 8/7c on Lifetime

There is a rule I tell my students when they start on their creative pieces; I tell them that they shouldnít talk ABOUT a story, but tell it -- put me there so I can believe the action. I wish Lifetime would have taken this advice when scripting and casting the reboot, Flowers in the Attic. I had high hopes for this remake -- as a fan of the original 1979 novel (that I read as a [much too young] third grader), and then of the 1987 movie version with Kristy Swanson I totally bought in; especially since LIfetime was touting a more faithful telling of the novel; incest included. But what I got was a heavy-handed shell of the tale that completely lacks nuance or subtlety.

The premise of the movie closely resembles the plot of the novel: a beautiful, young mother loses her husband and is forced to return to her estranged family, from which she was disinherited years before. Heather Graham plays the mother Corinne in a lackluster, bland performance that was so vague it was hard to tell if she was sympathetic or not (by act three, it was obvious she was a bad guy but it didnít take much acting on her part to get us there (I guess Lifetime didnít trust us to deduce that on our own). Corrinne returns home in the middle of the night to her childhood home and is greeted by her mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, a stern, evil, shard of a woman, that has long harbored a grudge against Corrinne. Burstynís character is meant to be personification of the dark, twisted tone of the movie, but it doesnít quite hit the mark. She is scary in the way that quicksand is supposed to be scary (but really isnít, if you think about it), but it never really materializes. We learn, through a painstaking and unnatural passage of time, that Corrinne was shunned for falling in love with her fatherís half-brother (the childrenís father). The two ran away and had four ďperfectĒ children together, cutting themselves off from the family. After the fatherís death, they return in secret and the children are sequestered away in the attic until Corinne can win over her father and be added back to the will. Burstynís character, the grandmother, supervises their care with sporadic visits from their mother that grow fewer and fewer as she reacclimates to the high society she left years earlier. The children grow wan and pale and bored, and eventually the two older wind up sleeping together (you will recognize Cathy as Don Draperís daughter from Mad Men, Kiernan Shipka). I know, gross -- but that is pretty faithful to the book, and the movie does an ok job of keeping the ick-factor to a respectable level. The older children grower bolder and eventually find ways to sneak out and devise a plan to escape, but not before a series of dire circumstances force them to rethink their relationship with their mother. .

While the premise is dark enough, the execution is cartoonish and ham-fisted. The actors act around each other like wooden robots, and all the emotion and humanity is just so obvious. There is very little psychology in the this once-psychological thriller, and what could have been a deeply disturbing, haunting reboot of a classic turned into Lifetime bludgeoning us over the head with the AWFULNESS of it. We get it: its gross and weird and terrible Stop telling us and SHOW US (also something I tell my students).The characters are painted with such a broad brush that it seemed like it was the first time any of the actors were reading the script. I had to fight the urge to surf the internet while I watched because there was very little that was intriguing about this movie, except for Ellen Burstynís wig.

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