Lifetime’s ‘Flowers In The Attic’ Is Everything You Want In A Cheesy Incest Sexytime Movie

Lifetime's 'Flowers In The Attic' Is Everything You Want In A Cheesy Incest Sexytime Movie

Have you blocked off time Saturday night to watch Lifetime’s teevee movie adaptation of V.C. Andrews’s incest melodrama classic (how do THOSE words all look together, huh?) Flowers in the Attic? You better! The made-for-tv movie is a delightful slice of (hopefully) deliberately overacted cheesiness that only hangs together because everybody of a certain age knows every moment of the story thanks to repeated furtive teenage readings.

If you are old, you are saying to yourself “hey, wait a minute, self. Didn’t they already make a Flowers in the Attic movie?” Yes, self, you are so smart! They did! Back in 1987, with the future Buffy the Vampire Slayer (movie, not teevee) Kristy Swanson in the role of Cathy, the eldest Dollanganger daughter, played in this version by Kiernan Shipka aka Sally from “Mad Men.” Forget all about that version. Shut up about that version already because nobody cares, baby, and you are indeed old. Just settle in and watch this one instead.

Do you remember the plot? How could you NOT remember the plot? Perfect flaxen-haired quartet of children live perfect life until dad dies, at which point mom (Heather Graham) whisks them off to live in the attic of her fabulously wealthy parents’ mansion. The children can never come out until grandpa kicks the bucket, because grandpa can never know about how Heather Graham made all the perfect babies with her half-uncle. Grandma (Ellen Burstyn, punching WAY below her weight here) is both utterly insanely evil and tentatively sympathetic, with no rhyme or reason as to which version will appear in the attic on any given day. Of course the kids stay stuck in the attic as mom goes off to have a fabulous new remarried life and of course Cathy can only turn to her brother, Chris (Mason Dye), as she begins her flowering of womanhood.

Cathy is the off-screen narrator and the character who is supposed to be the most self-aware about the great pile of suck that is their life now. Shipka’s acting, as was once so famously said of Katharine Hepburn, runs the gamut of emotions from A to B. She’s sullen child one moment and womanly-flowering another, and that’s about it. Basically, she just plays a slightly older Sally Draper who does sex on her brother. Her greatest acting achievement here is succeeding at that hoary old trope where she gets the hair-hacked-off-with-kitchen-scissors haircut but somehow it still looks great. However, next to Mason Dye playing her brother/sexytime friend Chris, Shipka is Laurence Olivier. Dye is nothing but a living breathing Ken Doll, all smooth hairless muscles and limited facial features. But that’s OK, because his only job is to have sex with his sister and climb around manfully over fences and prowl silently through the house as he searches for a way to free them.

Heather Graham is actually the biggest unexpected treat of the show. As a mom with a story arc that goes from perfect wife and mom to awful mom who locks up her children for years, she plays everything with a brittle wide-eyed 1950s housewife intensity.


She’s nothing without a man to take care of her, and absent that man, the children are just unfortunate burdens who are better left unheard and unseen. Each time she shows up, she’s a little thinner and glossier and faux-weepier. It’s marvelous.

Burstyn is as great as you think she’ll be, slumming it here in an end-of-career turn that reminds you of when Barbara Stanwyck showed up in “The Thorn Birds.” Now don’t you wish you could go watch “The Thorn Birds” again? Of course you do, silly. You can actually go watch it all over at Amazon.Isn’t modern technology grand?

“Flowers in the Attic” airs Saturday January 18 at 8pm Eastern, with repeated showings throughout the weekend, so you literally cannot miss it.

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  • msanthropesmr

    If you’ve got an hour or so, you should treat yourself to the book synopsis on Wikipedia.

    • RachelK

      If you’ve got more than an hour (although, you could read it in half that really) you should check out my recap/loving snarking on tumblr. it’s casteelkidsstolemygroceries a VC Andrews project.

    • Annie Towne

      Oh my god! This is what happens when fans of writers mistake themselves for writers. I’m tempted to sign in and edit the synopsis down to three sentences. By Wikipedia rules, it shouldn’t be longer than about 600 words and should not include such sentences as: ‘Revenge will be served cold.’ (!) But it’s so funny, I think I’ll leave it. Plus, editing Wikipedia is the equivalent of pouring water into a leaking bucket while nursing a migraine, so I gave it up long ago.

    • bluerinse

      Thanks – that made my day.

  • BigRedDog

    Fuck. Approximately once a year something happens that makes me wish I had cable. This is it for 2014. I remember reading these in middle school and thinking how my mom would disapprove if she ever bothered to notice what I was reading.

    • $73376667

      I’m sure it’ll still be just as terribawful on Netflix a few months down the road.

  • RachelK

    I’m having a party. We will be eating fried chicken, citrus fruit, and of course, powdered sugar donuts out of a picnic basket.

    • politicallie

      To this day I am suspicious of powdered sugar donuts. If I ever poison anyone, that’s the way I would do it.

  • Annie Towne

    Let us remember that Dorothy Parker’s deliciously snotty remark about Katherine Hepburn was a comment on ONE performance, in a play (and possibly her first stage role), NOT a comment on her entire career, which the quote is often mistakenly used to sum up, so I’m very happy to see you reference it appropriately, Leezee.

    • La Cieca

      And because the zingers in her reviews were so popular, Parker felt pressured to keep zinging them out, which means that just possibly in some cases they were not entirely accurate assessments of the relevant performances.Eventually, Parker asked to be taken off the play reviewing beat because she said (and i”m doing an indirect quote here because I can’t find the original) something about how she couldn’t write entertaining positive reviews and she dreaded the prospect of spending her whole life deliberately seeking out awful plays.

      • $73376667

        And that’s why our bloggers cry (and drink) themselves to sleep! The End

        • Annie Towne

          Excuses, excuses.

          • $73376667

            Yes, the real professional bloggers don’t need an excuse to cry and/or drink.

  • Vienna Woods

    I have a confession to make. I put the “novel” on a supplementary reading list for my gr 11 English class focused on Gothic literature. Then I read it. I removed it from the list because I couldn’t subject the kids to such absolutely horrible writing. My God. How did that thing get published in the first place? I read the summaries on Wikipedia for the sequels. again, I ask, how did these truly awful pieces of shit get published? It’s not the plot, although that’s atrocious as well, but just the total amateur level of writing.That being said, I’d love to see Heather Graham chew up the screen as mom.