“There are some movies that you can’t love no matter how much you try to, because they don’t truly want you to love them”
There are some movies you watch and you’ll love right away, I don’t know how to fully explain it, some movies that have the abilty to make you feel more, it has a certain beauty that makes you connect with it , that transforms your experience of it into something more than ourselves. These movies that leave you aching for more. In short you’re forever mesmerised by it…
I recently watched the movie “The Fault in Our Stars”. I instantly fell in love with it. Some movies have that magic to get you so intrigued and worked up that you’d want to go out and read the novels they were based on… If I can name a few other novels … The Prestige, The Life of Pi … Just some of the movies that really made me want to go out and get the books.
I asked myself a question this morning…
“If I had never read the Dollanganger series and merely watched the Lifetime movies, would it make me want to go out and buy the books ?”
And my answer is … NO. It isn’t THAT interesting or intriguing enough.
If I left it here, it would be a dead end, I wouldn’t read the books, I wouldn’t know what brilliance lay behind Virginia’s writing, I would have dismissed it as trival and trashy, I would never have given her a chance … And this review would be short.
In fact it would be non existent.
But I’ve read Virginia’s books … All of them, countless times , enough to know what makes them so captivating and enduring.
As with everything, I like to give a balanced view ….
There are some positives to what Lifetime did, in that they re-ignited the Dollanganger franchise and sent hordes of 30 something plus running wildly around the house hunting down those tattered and torn copies they stored away in boxes so long ago, to read it once again and fondly capture that nostalgic moment in their teens when once upon a time, they stumbled upon that forbidden novel. The movie depended on the books to boost it’s viewership – it depended on the nostalgic that would make 30 somethings and older to reach out and go hunting for those old tattered and torn copies stored away in boxes in cupboards, garages and attics. That was great way to REVISIT the older books.
I didn’t have a problem with how Lifetime showcased other subsidiary characters … Bart Jnr, Jory, Melodie, Cindy etc … I thought they were handled well…
There were some great performances from subsidiary characters like Bailey Buntain (Carrie in POTW), Mason Cook (Bart Jr in ITBT), James Maslow (SOY), Anthony Konechny (SOY) and Leah Gibson (SOY)
But hey a lot of movies deal with those kind of characters … It’s not that unique enough since- so it wasn’t enough
Fans of the books got to engage in conversations with the actors, scriptwriters, directors, choreographers. The four movies were trending on twitter during their premier which really added in boosting the excitement..
I’m not a purist, I’m a theorist, I don’t expect lifetime to translate every word into the movie, I like change ups they make interesting talking points trying to explain the differences.
However this wasn’t enough…
So what’s my gripe with Lifetime’s version ?
In order for me to answer that I would have to explain something complex and why virginia’s work is so compelling
Before I do there is a word I learnt long ago that will come in handy…
Ineffable –– it means that which cannot be spoken, that which is beyond human understanding, too complex to understand…
It’s difficult to explain Virginia Andrew’s novels and our fascination with them, heck even Ellen Burstyn didn’t particularly understand the magic formula
“although they weren’t particularly well written, there was something compelling about it that you couldn’t put it down .”
Merely because what is captivating and compelling about these novels are too complex to explain.
“but I did read the book. As a matter of fact, I read all four books. I was surprised, when I read those books, how much I enjoyed them. [Laughs] I thought, “Well, this is not great literature, but I must say it’s absolutely compelling.” [Laughs] I couldn’t put them down once I got into them.” Ellen Burstyn
Many other novels prior to VC Andrews’ novel dealt with the taboo of incest but hers was surprisingly UNIQUE. VCA took something that was considered sinful, despicable, and trashy, explored every facet of it and transformed it into something extra-ordinary and profound, that it became higher than sin … And it all revolved around ONE MASTER KEY ELEMENT.
It isn’t the ACT that’s sinful but the intentions behind the act.
When Lifetime embarked upon doing the Dollanganger movies, they made a promise to go there . http://www.ew.com/article/2013/11/14/flowers-in-the-attic-first-look
A promise to do what the 1987 movie failed to do because it was too scared to take a RISK.
Yes, Lifetime went there … They included the incest. But they forgot to add the ONE KEYINGREDIENT that made Virginia Andrews take on the taboo of incest unique -that magical component LOVE. Not just physical love … “transcends the physical and borders the metaphysical.”
“Love changed all that was ordinary into
something giddy, powerful, drunken, enchanted.” Cathy – Flowers in the Attic
LOVE changed the ordinary into something extra- ordinary. Without it, Virginia’s book would be trivial, trashy, lurid , MEDIOCRE. Andrews went further though and questioned the validity of that love and explored every facet of it’s complexity.
One prescreening reviewer noted, “Lifetime’s Flowers in the Attic has all the incest, but no heart and soul” I couldn’t agree more . Lifetime’s failed dismally in showing us that special attic bond that existed between Cathy and Chris… Where they became two halves of a whole- one person, one soul.
I kept waiting for those moments … The moments Where he rolls a tendril of her hair over and over again in between his thumb and forefinger, those tender moments where he breathes deeply intoxicated by her scent, or where Chris and Cathy lock eyes, I wanted for those kisses to take the pain away after being whipped, or for the moment he accidently stabbed her in the attic , and where Cathy listens to Chris’s heart beat, those soft tender moments and that beautiful breath taking night under the other worldliness of christmas tree.
I kept on waiting, believing there would be those larger than life moments and all I got was
reverbrating thoughout the series.
An emptiness, a doughnut void, that couldn’t live up to an expectation that wasn’t far above lifetime’s reach.
What I got instead was stupid dialogue and sex sex, sex meaningless empty red lights flashing “INCESTFEST”
Everything that was beautiful and profound about the book was omitted and everything left became meaningless…
Flowers in the Attic – pervy,hormonal, teenage experiment.
Petals on the Wind -presented as awkward (although this though was the best rendition of their love)
If There Be Thorns – was animalistic and lusty
Seeds of Yesterday – “we’re having committing the crime off incest just to piss of grandma”
Lifetime couldn’t go there … For a simple reason, it’s SAFER to make this look more like incest, making it look like Love is too risky especially to producers and their pocket.
The message “hey we had a lot of sick, creepy people who are obsessed with incest, so we put it in for them, and well that’s why they like the books anyway” its a confused message and completely wrong.
Lifetime wasted all it’s resources on a distraction rather than focusing on
what was important to the spirit of the story.
The films lacked credibility because it lacked believability…. Or that ability to change my perception that this was actually a love story.
It lacked something to make it’s dreams real,
Maybe the best way to describe it is by using Chris’s words himself
“I only know what I see, and what emotions Cathy makes me feel when she dances. I know when the music turns on, and she begins to move with it, my heart stands still, and when her dance is over, I know I am left aching because such beauty has gone. She doesn’t just dance a role, she is that character; she makes you believe-because she believes-and there’s not a
girl in your company who reaches out and grabs my heart and squeezes it until it throbs.”
Lifetime just chickened out.
As Sarah mentions in The Prestige , The trick in life is to tell when something is magic or when it’s just an illusion…
You’ll know when something is real and when it’s just a lie. Love and it’s conterpart sex.
How fitting lifetime’s ending was , when it faded into the unrealness of the Dollhouse, making everything seem an illusion, lacking the magical
Purple grass ending
So appropriate how Soy the movie ended… It was merely Shadow itself of the book’s ending … Something that would disappear …
I’d like to thank Kathryn Klein for helping with the edit and Lulabel Johnson Jennifer Clark and Candace Marie Butler for inspiring me. Last but not least I’d like to thank Lorraine Elgar for the final edit, the “pure” artwork concept of bringing the dream world into life and for always believing in me, its that strength that gave me the wings to fly and together we’ve achieved more than we’d ever dreamt possible.