We NEED To Talk About Lifetime's "Flowers in the Attic"

Lets all put our thinking caps away. Forever.
Publish date:
January 20, 2014
movies, porn, books, television, VC Andrews, incest, stereotypes, M

There's an adage that goes, "You should always try to be the dumbest person in the room" meaning you should try to hang out with very smart people so you learn something. It's aspirational, and like most people, I'm not that good a human. In any given room I like to be secure knowing I score in the top 25%. I'm an asshole like that. I like feeling educated and well-read and respected for my ideas and thought process.

Which is why I have a multitude of excuses to explain my sick pleasure in a good Lifetime movie. And by good, I mean bad. And by movie, I mean 90-minute commercial for mood stabilizers and birth control. "The Texas Cadet Murders?" There goes my afternoon. "The Betty Broderick Story?" I'M NOT LEAVING THE HOUSE TODAY, SEND FOOD AND WELLBUTRIN.

I'm pretty sure I exhausted the Andrews publishing empire by the time I was 13 -- what can I say, I was also going through a true crime thing, so that explains a lot about my taste level. If you've never read a VC Andrews *cough* novel *cough* , they drip with stereotypes gone by of women, men, families and manifest destiny. A female protagonist, although what she's protagoning, I have no fucking idea. Andrew's women were always a victim of circumstance and abuse who goes out into the world to try and undermine the destiny that's been laid out by previous women in their family. Along the way the, ah, "heroine" will be tested and maligned by money, more victimization, catty, jealous women, father figure men and sex, always succumbing to the same life laid out by providence, but now reframed as choice.

It's pre-teen porn.

And it's the kind of porn that throws around the word "member" and "throbbing," dancing over guilt-laden sex with "inappropriate men." It's like Skinemax for Noobs. They're full of wildly inappropriate tropes. Everyone was unnaturally attractive and white, jealous girls were fat and mean, every character was either wildly rich or hopelessly poor, brilliantly talented and smart or stunted, anyone religious was so devoted they were demonic. There is no moderation in VC Andrew's world.

But these gems graced the shelves of even junior-high school libraries during my tenure, librarians just thrilled we were reading in the pre-Harry Potter literary scene. And if you've ever wondered why there are an inexplicable amount of teens or babies named "Heaven Leigh" or "Nevaeh," send all letters of ire to Simon and Schuster.

So formulaic were these novels that when the actual Virginia Andrews died, her family commissioned someone else to ghost write under her name, and most of us never noticed the difference. The popularity culminated in the 1987 big screen retelling of "Flowers" starring Kristy Swanson, Victoria Tennant and a bunch of other actors no one knows anymore as a group of blonde, incestuous kids, a maniacally self motivated mother and a batshit crazeballs religious matron of the house.


And I LOVED it. I could watch it again today (TOO LATE!). The acting couldn't prop up a horrible script or ridiculous premise, but lets be frank, the acting blew monkeyballs, too. It all made it just sublime for 2 hours of brain cell homicide. It was a box office bomb.

But like many things in the 80s that I suspect wouldn't be laughed away if they happened today ("Cop Rock, a new musical drama by Ryan Murphy coming to you this fall?") it doesn't shock me that they revived "Flowers in the Attic." It's so ideal for Lifetime TV that the most disappointing part is scoring actual A-list actors. Really, they could have just repackaged the original and saved a bunch of money, we'd all have watched it.

I imagine many of you were like me, and upon hearing of the remake, became downright giddy. If you were not like me, I'm going to need you to lie. Cause I was all, "HOLD MY CALLS, I'LL BE SJEIC89211ssss.........".

Trust me, knowing the plot isn't going to affect your ability to enjoy this one way or another.

So please, indulge me, mes amis, as I recount the points that made me cringe/glee (that's right. it's a thing) from this weekend's plonkfest.

My favorite plot points:

  • the belongings of four children fit into one small suitcase. ONE WITHOUT WHEELS. Please. Christopher's hair products wouldn't fit into that suitcase.
  • "Oh, by the way, our last name isn't Dollanganger." OF COURSE IT'S NOT BECAUSE THAT IS NOT A REAL NAME.
  • Stay with me, but IMO if Heather Graham had worn her Rollergirl outfit through this movie, it would not have affected her believability either way, AMIRITE?
  • Not that I've shown ANY motherly instinct so far, but hey, just lemme lock you kids in this dumbwaiter so you can spy on our already established vengeful assaholic grandmother.
  • "When are we going to outgrow things?"- Cory and Carrie.
  • "Lets just play cinematic hopscotch through some light incestual foreplay. WHO WILL NOTICE?"- the directors thought bubble
  • "Buuuuuuut, at the same time, lets offer lots of naked bathroom scenes brought on by belt whippings!"
  • "Guys. There's not enough inappropriate sex. Lets have Cathy make out with her STEPFATHER!"

Although not a lick more well written than the remake, the original maintains a sinister suspension propped up by its use of really badulous (also a thing) original score. I love me a good Guns and Roses cover, but it wasn't enough.

As if they were cookies baked from the same recipe, both movies suffer from some impressive over-acting, excluding the role of the grandmother and Cathy. And as much as I like Shipka, someone dial up Kristy Swanson so I can apologize, because her loud indignance read better onscreen. In terms of sheer terror, Louise Fletcher definitely takes the win here, Burstyn gave away too many occasional signs of humanity.

And perhaps that's the most telling point of all. Shipka and Burstyn played their roles with subtlety and consideration. IT'S LIKE THEY DON'T EVEN UNDERSTAND! Films about incest don't benefit from moderation.

So TL, DR (where TL stands for too long)... IT'S A TOTALLY WATCHABLE MOVIE. And by watchable, I mean "something to do while drunk" and by movie I mean "drinking game in which everytime someone says "demon seed" you take a shot while driving a pencil into your eye."

Fellow Andrewsians.... what do you think? Original or remake? Did I miss some gargantuan plot hole or other ridiculousness?