Sunday, February 16, 2014

Flowers in the Attic

When I was a kid, a coming of age kid in the late 1970s, this was the book (and in rather quick succession, series of books) that not only everyone read, it was the one you had to read, and were forbidden to read.

"Flowers in the Attic" by V.C. Andrews is at its core a tale of forbidden love. A rich girl has an incestuous relationship with an uncle, and both are cast from the family. They live almost happily ever after outside the family, with a teenage son and daughter as well as pre-teen twins, until the uncle dies in a car accident. The mother must return to her family for help. The children are locked away in a huge attic because her parents are a bit deranged. While the mother is accepted back into the family slowly, the son and daughter enter puberty in the attic, where it's sinisterly intended they never escape from.

That's the first book. It continues in "Petals on the Wind," "If There Be Thorns," "Seeds of Yesterday," and "Garden of Shadows," a Gothic horror series of books telling the repeating incestuous history of this family, all with cool cut out peekaboo covers. Because of the content, they were banned in many schools, but everybody, including boys like me, read them. They were mostly narrated by the daughter, Cathy Dollanganger, and there was much speculation that the stories were true, and Cathy was actually the wheelchair-bound V.C. Andrews. Oh, the rumor filled days from the before the internet!

A disastrous movie starring Victoria Tennant, Louise Fletcher, and Kristy Swanson followed in 1987. To say it was disappointing would be a serious understatement. It was almost as if the producers didn't know anything about the book(s), and the result was at best a primer for the book, if that. It was a bad movie in both execution and performance.

Now, almost three decades later, the Lifetime Network is trying to take the Dollanganger clan the movie route. This production has Heather Graham as the mother, Ellen Burstyn as the grandmother, and Kiernan Shipka as Cathy. While Graham is seared onto my eyelids eternally from Lenny Kravitz' "American Woman" video and hard from me to imagine as matronly, I think Shipka is perfect casting. The simple fact that so many times I have wanted to slap the crap out of her snotty and rebellious Sally on "Mad Men" makes her the perfect Cathy - because really, the character is just a spoiled bitch. I loved the books, but by the end of them, I kinda felt she deserved the tragedy that was her life. Just my opinion.

I really liked Lifetime's ad campaign for the movie with Trees' haunting version of "Sweet Child o' Mine" and the teasers calling it 'The Book You Were Forbidden to Read.' Nice. Shipka fulfills suspicions, Graham overcomes my perceived limitations, and most surprisingly, Burstyn is not only properly evil in her role as antagonist, she even manages to garner sympathy at some points.

This is perhaps not a perfect version of Flowers, but it is easily light years better than the first movie version. Anyone chased away by the 1987 film should check this out, it's the movie we should have gotten, and a much more satisfying translation of the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment