Attempted Blogger’s Recap: Incest Ain’t No Thang
Imagine my glee when I learned that Lifetime had decided to do a remake/reboot of the tawdry classic Flowers in the Attic. The original 1987 film — which tells the story of children imprisoned in an attic by their messed-up mother — is something of a classic in the movies-whispered-about-by-pre-teens genre.
As if that weren’t enough, Lifetime somehow got Kiernan Shipka — the wunderkind actress from Mad Men — to slum it in the starring role. I didn’t believe Mr. Max for a full 10 minutes when he told me he saw Sally Draper in the preview. I just kept laughing and saying “Nooo,” the same way he did that time I told him about the Green Day musical.
For the premier, Lifetime expert Lena Webb once again traveled across the State to watch a TV movie, this time with her husband Matthew in tow. To kick off the weekend, we spent Friday night with a Netflix rental of the 1980s classic.
Despite high hopes, 40 pounds of chinese food, and excellent company, I have to ultimately give the new Flowers in the Attic a lukewarm review. Why?
Mainly because of the wussification of the source material. While the original was chock full of all kinds of icky weirdness, the remake relies on the shock value of incest alone. Incest Shmincest – you can find plenty of that on those “biggest secret” threads on Reddit. Where’s the evil grandmother picking up a kid by his head? The intentional smashing of the cherished music box? The symbolism-heavy whipping of the mom in front of the senile grandfather? I mean, they didn’t even do the scene where the kids feed the starving twins with their own blood.
IS NOTHING SACRED?
The other major disappointment was Ellen Burstyn’s performance as the grandmother. She’s a little too vaudeville to pull off the whole “fist in your face” thing.
On the plus side, Lena learned something about her husband that she never knew…
My secret skill turns out to be figuring out the plot of Lifetime movies in 15 minutes—
Matthew Garrett (@mjg59) January 18, 2014
(It’s true. He got the endings of the other 3 movies we watched, too.)
Lena’s Recap: Twice in a Lifetime
Attempted Blogger does a perfect job of detailing our shared main beef about the remake in respect to the original: Lifetime squandered too many Lifetime-able moments already found in the original. We looked at each other and said “WTF?” much more during the original than the remake and, to me, that indicates a failing on Lifetime’s part– and this one was a freebie because the original is basically already a Lifetime movie in a lot of ways. For example,
Some Lifetime movie titles smack you right in the face with a huge spoiler alert, an almost stand-alone sentence screaming the (no longer) most surprising aspect of the plot. She’s too young! Stalked at 17! Too young to be a Dad! Baby for sale! Why I wore lipstick to my mastectomy! These are the ones you watch when you need instant laughs. “Flowers in the Attic” fits nicely into the vague-but-you-can-probably-guess-with-astonishing-accuracy-some-of-the-main-plot-points genre of Lifetime movie titles, which is the most beguiling and delicious of all genres. These titles really make you think.
We know something goes down in the attic, and our brain’s Lifetime Lobe is churning out all kinds of possibilities. Complete this sentence: “In the Attic, Flowers are a metaphor for ________________.”
- Finding out about being adopted
- Child molestation
- Shattered dreams
- Innocent captives
- Being gay
In this case, both 2 and 4 are correct, because the captive children molest each other on purpose. Incestuously.
So much WTF
As with every good Lifetime movie, the original is dense with WTF moments. The author of Flowers in the Attic, Cleo Virginia Ethel Andrews, must have been preternaturally attuned to the Mystical Lifetime Spiritforce (especially with a name like that) and knew that one day there would be an entire TV channel devoted to evil parents, screwy genetics, and problematically sexual youths. As Attempted Blogger mentions above, Lifetime succeeds in the boringification of an existing movie overflowing with moments like these:
Why, Lifetime? Why would you turn your back on such opportunity?
Hilarious Time Gaff
One of my favorite things to hatelove about Lifetime movies is their inclusion of horribly confusing flashbacks, flash-forwards, and abrupt scene cuts. My husband indeed turns out to be very good at navigating these little obstacles and has the ability to bring other, less adroit viewers up to speed, even if he’s been staring at his laptop the whole time and not obviously watching the movie.
The original Flowers in the Attic contains a particular Time Doozy at the very beginning, and it was one that even sufferers of Lifetime Attention Deficit Disorder would have caught. When the bus to Grandma’s drops them off at the desolate stop with all their luggage, there is no car to pick them up and so they trudge off into the darkness. The next scene has them walking up to Granny’s Mansion of Doom in broad daylight. Are we really to believe that a family with a couple of four-year-olds and big suitcases walked all night long? Did they have a map? A flashlight? “Meh!” says Lifetime. “It doesn’t matter!”
Overall I stand with my Lifetime Movie Mentor in her assessment of the remake, preferring the original in all its blood-lapping, baby-slapping insanity. When I drive across the state of Massachusetts for a Lifetime movie, I expect more than cookie-cutter incest.