Flowers In The Attic

Director: Deborah Chow

Lead Actors: Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn, Kiernan Shipka

Producer: Harvey Kahn

Plot Synopsis

This movie, like several other recent Lifetime movies, is based on a novel that touched the lives of many a grown woman. "Flowers in the Attic" is a novel by V.C. Andrews, published in 1979.

It is about the Dollanganger family whose entire identity is a house of cards built on lies and dark secrets.

This all comes to a head when Chris Sr., the father of the family, is killed in a car accident. This incident suddenly stops the flow of income for the family of four kids and one wife.

Chris Sr. had worked in sales and seemed to live on credit to give his family nice things. Upon dying, he leaves the family nothing but more financial problems.

Graham's Corrine Dollanganger, a beautiful trophy wife, lacks the income-generating skill to keep the family afloat without help. She seeks out help and help comes from an unexpected place - Corrine's estranged parents - the Foxworthies.

So the family packs up and moves their things to a large mansion in rural Virginia, where they are not exactly welcomed with open arms. We learn there that Chris Sr. and Corrine were half siblings and therefore their entire family is the result of incest. Their union angered their parents so much that they were banished from the Foxwothy mansion and Corrine was written out of her wealthy father's will.

Enter the grandmother of the Foxworthy family, who has always been jealous of Corrine's beauty and had already cursed Corrine's entire family- Olivia Foxworthy. She lets them all move back in under one condition: the children never leave the attic, so that the father of the Foxworthy family never sees them.

These dynamics and events lay the pipe for the meat of our story: four kids are stuck in a spacious attic in a wing of a very large mansion. . . . for two long years. They are fed every day and given things, but they are never allowed to leave. One of them is a girl entering adolescence. Her brother is further along and is entering manhood. Then there are the twins, who are five or six years old.

     Before they manage to escape, the Foxworthy family is forced to live in this attic for two years. Worse, they are under the rule of the grandmother who is so weighed down by resentment, she is unable to show any tenderness toward the children. She also rules by fear and is a firm believer of corporal punishment, for all generations, which spikes this already wicked story of incest and betrayal.

Here's a teaser: she orders more than one disobedient Dolenganger to "take off your shirt" before a very audivle and visible beating.

Who Would Like it and Why
Fans of the book, whom I am told are in the millions, might be curious to see how this was adapted.

There has already been one film adaptation which was considered a failure by many.

Fans of good acting need to see the hard, hard work of Heather Graham in this movie. Graham, who has played a sexy ditz in many guy films over the years, devours the screen in this classic retelling.

She is lovely, but wide-eyed, a constant deer in headlights that get closer and closer throughout the whole movie. Corrine is frank and earnest with her family, but in the end is swayed by her father's riches. She would fall out of her father's favor again if he learned about the kids, which means she has to choose between being rich and her secret family. Her choices and actions would not win her mother of the year in too many circles.

Graham plays this emotional shift - of protecting ones children to being seduced by diamonds and European trips - with clinical expertise. In this movie alone, she has placed herself in the small but elite army of truly gifted actresses in Hollywood. This is the same woman who played a love-stricken stripper in the "Hangover" series. 

This Lifetime opportunity has allowed Graham to truly flex her acting muscle.

I also thought Burstyn was delightful as a horror movie within a grandmother. She delivered.

Who Might not Like it and Why
If you like kids, then there are several types of abuse here that would make you squeamish.

For example, incest repeats itself in this family, and that put me ill at ease. The Foxworthies children, posing as the Dolengangers, are the product of incest.

    about three fourths through the movie, the two oldest siblings consummate their close relationship. On top of that, the children are slowly dying from isolation, malnutrition, not enough sun and, well boredom, not to mention they are not receiving a proper education or getting the social interaction they need. This is awkward for me as a viewer as I wonder what social services would do if they stumbled into this situation.

On top of all of that, near the end of the movie, the mother tries to kill all of the children by giving them rat poison-laced donuts. She manages to kill one of the kids, but the others decide at that point it's high time to get out of there.

Highlights/Top Scenes
Burstyn's taunting of the children as a way to maintain control of them is entertaining. In fact, I was at the premiere of this movie in Los Angeles, and she got several big laughs from the audience. There is also a nice scene where the two older siblings escape out of the house and enjoy a moon-lit night skinny dipping in the lake. Then a beautiful deer comes up to them and eats out of their hand. This deer becomes a sign of hope for them. About four scenes later the deer is shot down at close range by a groundskeeper in plain sight of the children. Again, there were laughs.

Two Mike and Ikes