TV-Movie Review: 'Flowers in the Attic' (2014)

Lifetime’s adaptation of V.C. Andrew’s cult classic book series embraces all of its source material's glorious camp, while giving it a legitimately dramatic presentation. The story centers on the Dollanganger family. When Dollanganger senior dies, family matriarch Corrine (Heather Graham) formulates a plan to get back into her estranged father’s good graces so that she can inherit the vast family fortune.

The catch is that many years ago her father disowned her due to her involvement with the father of her children and the only way to win him back is to withhold the truth about her children’s existence…or so she says.

As Corrine’s oldest daughter, the spirited Cathy (Kiernen Shipka) grows suspicious of her mother; she is faced with distractions on the home front, including her younger twin sibling’s care and brother Christopher (Mason Dye). A series of horrors are suffered by the kids at the hands of their crazed battleaxe of a grandmother and trust in their mother’s loyalty begins to unravel.

It is at this juncture, the tale’s indictment of the 50’s era veneer of feminine restraint and perfection is blown to bits. Who should the children trust more in the story than their own mother and yet the ugly truth is they are being lulled into a false sense of security. 

Boldness is definitely the underlying characteristic of the series as Lifetime’s ads boasted there is a plethora of taboos that are touched upon. One of the questions the grim story offers is if circumstance drove its characters to behave outside of normality or was there a familial predisposition that unwittingly carried them down their course of action. Some might say there is too much being read into this story but quite frankly, it offers more to mentally chew on than might be initially apparent.

The approach to telling it is movie-of-the-week and the age of its young stars makes watching it sufficiently uncomfortable. The story in and of itself is already disquieting enough without the added factor of the thematic material being tackled by actors so young. Kiernan Shipka was just 14 when filming took place.

Ellen Burstyn is chilling as the depraved granny and Heather Graham portrays the dual nature of Corrine with sufficient skill, vacillating between two extreme personalities. There is line delivery that at certain points comes across wooden by some of the younger cast members, though it is all around well-performed.

“Flowers in the Attic” is a harrowing tale. The movie's take on the twisted branches of a family tree turned rotten lenses the activity, allowing viewers to feel the outrage bristle beneath their collars. The kids’ lack of immediate action illustrates the lobster-effect of a slow boil to certain destruction, catching viewers in the lazy heat along with them.  Rating: 6.5/10

To read Eclectic Pop's review of the sequel "Petals on the Wind", click here

[Featured Image by Lifetime]