The Lifetime Channel can’t stop, won’t stop y’all! Their most recent attempt at high-brow cinema is a remake of the soapy and scandalous “Flowers in the Attic”, by V.C. Andrews. Abuse and imprisonment and incest? It’s like Andrews was the original founder of the Lifetime network. She knows what we likes.
This book has been a huge deal for lady-teens since it first came out in the 70s, so naturally I’ve never read it. I have a weird aversion to things that are wildly popular: I only saw “The Avengers” on a plane, I didn’t read the Harry Potter books until they’d been out for years and I had nothing else to read, and I refuse to use this “teeth-paste” you all keep yammering on about. Steel wool gets rid of my blueberry stains just fine, thank you very much! But I also have ears, and have heard plenty about “Flowers in the Attic” over the years. So I know we’re in for taboo love, poison donuts and probably abhorrent Southern accents. LET’S BEGIN!!:
We are taken on a tour around Foxworth Hall – the elaborate gothic mansion where the children will be held hostage. We get a voiceover from Cathy, the older daughter, expounding on how she and her siblings were beautiful tow-headed darlings with porcelain skin. And you’re like, “Whoa – conceited, much? Lock that chick in the attic, take her down a couple pegs.”
Then we’re back in happier days – all four children are loved by their mother and father, and there is no inappropriate sexual tension at all. There are pigtails and football and apple pies and I GET IT – THEY WERE SUPER WHOLESOME AND AMERICAN. But oh noes! Dad is killed in a car accident, which totally ruins the surprise party the family was throwing for him. So selfish, that guy. I’m glad he’s dead. But now the family is in dire financial straits, because Mom (Heather Graham) doesn’t have any skills besides “being pretty”. Those are her words – she’s super self-aware. So it’s off to Grandma’s house in Virginia!!
These kids are so creepy. All blonde and with names starting with “C”, they’re like a budget version of the Duggar family.
The Foxworth Family (they went back to Mom’s maiden name, for ease of storytelling) takes the train to rural VA and walks for hours to arrive at the Hall. It’s 3am, and yet Grandma answers the door looking as bitchy as if it were 10:47am. Which is of course, the bitchiest time of day.
They head inside and Grandma immediately starts asking about their hidden defects and pulling jewelry off the kids and threatening them with liver-spotted fists. I mean, she wastes NO TIME in calling them sinners and insinuating that the two older kids are gonna bone. Well – I guess she gets a point on that one. Mom promises the kids that she only needs a couple of days to weasel her way back into Grandpa’s will, so in the meantime they need to follow all of Grandma’s craaaaaaazy rules. She basically demands that the children be neither seen nor heard at all times.
Welp, the kids get antsy and don’t want to eat the chicken they’re given, and the younger daughter Carrie throws a fit. Grandma is NOT having it, and demands Mom take her shirt off. Whaaaaa – this is some weird punishment. But Mom does as she’s told, and we see all the scars she’s received from her crazy Mother. “18 lashes – one for every year she tried to use her feminine wiles on MY HUSBAND, and 20 more for every year she lived in sin with your father!!!” Grandma explains, super not-crazily:
Later, Mom explains that her husband and the children’s beloved dead father was actually her father’s half-brother/her half-uncle. She calmly explains to the children that, “Sometimes love just happens, when we least expect it!”, and also pointed out that none of the children had forked tongues or tails, so UP YOURS, genetics! Her speech about how love sometimes just happens sure is setting the stage for how these desires “run in the family” lolololololololol.
A month passes, and Mom is still working the old man for a way back into his will. She has gotten his forgiveness – but only by promising that she never had any children with her Uncle-Husband. Wah Waaaaaah. The children must remain hidden. The youngest son Cory takes this pretty literally and almost dies while hiding in a closed suitcase. Hmmm, now I’m starting to suspect maybe there ARE some negative effects of being born from incest. Because Cory is a moron. Cathy and Christopher take on the Mother and Father roles to help ease the younger kids’ suffering. It’s super-hot:
Then it’s snowing, so I guess it’s Christmas? They try to get on Grandma’s good side by making her a poster for the holidays, but Grandma is not trying to have it. Mom comes to visit though, and brings them a TV and good tidings of how well her gold-digging is going. There’s a holiday party that evening, and she grants Cathy and Christopher permission to watch from a liquor cabinet upstairs. Ah, just like where I usually end up at the end of parties!! They watch as Ol’ Man Moneybags is wheeled out into the party and gives their Mom a fancy necklace, after she kisses him full-on on the mouth. Grandma is crazy, but Mom seems craaaaazy about incest!! But no – she’s also kind of seeing her Dad’s lawyer, Mr. Winslow. The kids are getting an eyeful tonight! Christopher goes a-wandering, and when he gets back to the attic Mom is SO PISSED. She slaps the shit out of him and threatens to keep the children locked up in the attic indefinitely. She’s got crazy eyes!
She comes up the next morning and lays on some serious passive-aggressive action to get their forgiveness. It works, because the kids have other things on their minds. Christopher is looking at nudie magazines and Cathy is developing breast-es-es. Christopher walks in on Cathy in the bathroom, and Grandma walks in on both of them and assumes sexy-time stuff. She says that Cathy must cut off her hair, or none of them eat for a week. The kids begin to starve, but then Grandma relents and brings food. YAY, everything is good again!! Cathy wakes up and her hair has been covered in tar. Ooooh, that wascally Grandma! She wins this round!!! Christopher tries to get the tar out of Cathy’s hair in the bath (BOW), but it doesn’t work, so they have an intense staredown in the bathroom mirror where they admit to “thinking of each other” (BOW CHICKA WOW WOW).
Christopher fights the urges and instead cuts all of Cathy’s hair off. That is a mood-killer.
They’ve been in the attic for over a year, when it finally dawns on Cathy that the roof that she and Christopher climb onto all the time to get fresh air and look at nudie magazines may be a means to escape. The two of them rappel down the side of the house late one night and onto the grounds. Success! What should they do with this sudden freedom? Why, go skinny-dipping in the lake, of course! They lay on the grass and feed leaves to a NEON-BRIGHT METAPHOR for their innocence in the form of a baby deer, and then GO BACK INSIDE. These kids, man. I don’t – I don’t even know.
More time passes, the twins get a pet rat. Fine.
Mom comes to visit for the first time in months, and brings tidings of her new marriage to her Dad’s lawyer Mr. Winslow. “Sorry it’s been so long since I visited, we only just got back from our honeymoon in Europe!!” She totally brought them presents, but they’re being real dicks about it. All they want to know is why they’ve been here for 2 years, when they’ll get out, blah blah blah. They don’t even ask her if she went to Paris!
The next day, Grandma comes in with donuts for the children. She says they’re from their mother, and that she wouldn’t recommend they eat them. “…they could be bad for your health…” What could THAT mean?! So mysterious.
Later, Christopher and Cathy watch the deer they fed out the window while they discuss their futures. Where could they go? If they escaped, what would they do for money? And then – a dude walks up and shoots the deer in the face.
Grandma comes up and addresses Christopher as “boy”, and that is finally the injustice that breaks his spirit. He mouths off, and she whips him. I mean, you gotta whip something when the belt is out, you know? Later, Cathy tends to his wounds:
And you know back wounds are a serious aphrodisiac, because boom goes the dynamite:
The next morning, Cathy is all, “I know it was wrong, but it felt so riiiiight…” and then Grandma walks in and Christopher is like “We are sinners, yo! You called it! 20 points to Slytherin!!!” Grandma is actually kind of cool with them admitting it, and so there’s no whipping. And when Christopher was lying prostrate in front of Grandma, he somehow managed to press the key she was holding into a bar of soap, and now they can whittle a key from the imprint? OK, sure.
But if they’re gonna escape, they need money. So Christopher and Cathy take excursions into the house to steal things, and Cathy takes the opportunity to kiss a passed out Mr. Winslow in her mother’s bed. Christopher finds out about it and he and Cathy fight. Then they make up. No, I mean they MAKE UP. Are you catching my drift? Because I am waggling my eyebrows pretty elaborately.
Cory is sick. He’s been eating all of the donuts, you guys, because he is a little piggy. Mom and Grandma come in and Mom is feeling slappy again and slaps Cathy when she says Cory needs a hospital. So many slaps in this family! It’s like the Southern Gothic version of hugs for other families. Mom relents and takes Cory to the hospital. She comes back some time later to tell the kids that not only did he die, but he’s already been buried. No funeral the kids can attend, and they had constructed an elaborate eulogy set to “In The Living Years”, too. Such a shame.
Time to bounce for REAL. Christopher and Cathy decide their Mom is dead to them now, so they need to leave. And I guess take the other living twin with them. If there’s time, anyways. Christopher heads into the house to steal some more, and hears some house staff talking about how Mr. Foxworthy is dead and has been for months. And about how Mrs. Foxworthy carries enough poison up into the attic to kill 1,000 mice. But – THEY live in the attic! Maybe some of the poison accidentally fell into their mouths? And that’s why everyone seems sick?
Meanwhile, Cathy is putting two and two together that maybe Cory died of more than just Attic Fever. Poison on the powdered donuts! Christopher runs back up followed by Grandma who tries to whip them all. But they trap her in the stairwell with no lights and she has a mental breakdown. She tells them it was their Mother who poisoned them, and they’re like, “Whatever byeeeeeees”. They escape out the window – the same window that hasn’t been locked at all these many years, for the record – and run away. Yay! They board a train and head off to their new lives, completely unscathed from everything that has happened, I bet.
The End. Lifetime is premiering the Lizzie Borden story soon, starring Christina Ricci. Because Lifetime are the true heroes, giving of themselves, even when we all beg them to stop.