It may be the second attempt to bring V.C. Andrews' cult classic book to life in movie form, but the Lifetime remake of Flowers in the Attic does what its 1987 predecessor refused to do. It gets the story right.
With Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka as Cathy Dollanganger and Mason Dye as her brother Christopher, the Lifetime original movie tells the story of four children locked in their grandmother's attic for years after their father's death. In all three versions, the Dollanganger children learn they're the products of incest -- their mother, Corinne, was the niece of her husband, their father. But the 1987 movie shied away from exactly what made the book so creepy -- and so scandalous.
The Lifetime movie didn't.
Yes, there was incest, and not just through the story of the mother and her uncle.
Kiernan Shipka and her TV brother growing up together in captivity succumb to their baser urges right before our very eyes. Of course, it being Lifetime, the sex between two teenagers, two siblings, is limited to kisses and the sight of the two of them under the covers, Dye's chest bare in a post-coital cuddle.
A purist in terms of liking my movies to match my books, I'll admit I didn't need to see any more. Even the kisses themselves were unsettling, no less so because Shipka truly inhabits the role of Cathy Dollanganger.
The incest was, in fact, only the very large tip of the iceberg in terms of returning Flowers in the Attic to Andrews' original creation. Other crucial fixes were made, including a return to the time frame in which Andrews actually set her novel, and faithfulness to the length of time in which the Dollanganger children were held hostage and their means of escape.
Unfortunately, the faithfulness to Andrews' book wasn't enough to make the movie more interesting. Ellen Burstyn as Grandmother Olivia Foxworth makes a mean villain and Heather Graham is sufficiently infuriating as the children's mother, Corinne Foxworth/Dollanganger. But it's hard to pack three years of captivity into two hours -- with commercials -- and truly make you feel the angst of these children wondering if they will ever make it out of that attic alive.
Even the relationship between siblings Cathy and Chris, creepy as it is, lacks the desperation of the teenagers in the book.
With rumors that Lifetime already has a sequel lined up, let's hope they do better the second time around.
What did you think of Lifetime's decision to show the incestuous relationship?
Image via James Dittiger/Lifetime