An Obsessively Close Read of the ‘Flowers in the Attic’ Trailer

So look: it was never a reasonable possibility that the Lifetime Flowers in the Attic movie was going to be “good” qua “good.” But that isn’t why anyone will be watching it; I, for example, will be watching it because I spent a great deal of my adolescence completing the equivalent of a doctorate in V.C. Andrewsology. Do I sometimes wonder what other kinds of information I might have retained had I turned my teenage attentions to something else? Yes. On the other hand, if I hadn’t spent so much time on this subject I would have missed out on the crucial opportunity we now have to all bond over our excitement about this film.

There was, of course, another adaptation in 1987, which did not do so well. In part, that’s because the filmmakers were too queasy about incest. And it is not possible, sadly, to preserve the essence of the V.C. Andrews allure without the incest, because it’s the incest that changes this from an ordinary captivity story — a genre tread by just about everyone right up to and including Faulkner — into something so dark and twisted you can only admit to loving it in sympathetic company. Part of the reason, I’ve always thought, that the young women who loved Andrews did so was because it initiated them into the secret society of worshipers, a secret we got to keep to ourselves, far from both parents and boys.

Anyway! A rather cursory trailer hit the Internet yesterday, though it was apparently preceded by longer footage, which we sadly missed. Still, valuable information can be gleaned from the short clips here, and there, about whether this will be “good” in the sense that it will satisfy the secret society. Overall, my impression was positive, though I think a great deal of that came from the music, which is a cover of “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” As to the rest, there were hints of both excellence and faithfulness.

First: Heather Graham is a good choice to play the children’s mother, Corinne. People doubted this casting but I think it works. I mean, look at her:

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I actually think Heather Graham’s bad acting and vacant-eyed stares will suit Corinne just fine. Her motivations, after all, for putting those children in the attic are always less than 100-percent clear; she’s a bit of an enigma.

Second, I like that the trailer made absolutely no bones about it: they’re doing the incest bit. See, e.g.:

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Though, you do have to ask yourself: What kind of career advice is Kiernan Shipka getting that she ended up in this movie? She should be doing some kind of indie coming-of-age story at 14, something directed by someone highly respected, or else just biding her time until she’s old enough to be a Wes Anderson ingenue. But here she is instead, filming incest for network television. Oh well.

Also, Ellen Burstyn should probably call her office, because I’m not sure this is the way you want your long, distinguished career of stage and screen to go out.

And I do have some quibbles with the costuming:

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The period garments on Heather Graham are a nice touch here — like, damn, that bra cantilevers, you know? — but poor Ellen has to make due with this ugly brown dress. Which, by the way: didn’t the grandmother always wear black? Is that thing at Ellen’s neck supposed to be the formidable diamond brooch? That’s not how I pictured it, not how I pictured it at all.

So far, I am grading this at a B+ overall. Caveat: I was tempted to deduct points for revealing the book’s ending, but let’s face it: the only people who will watch this on January 18 know what’s going to happen. And no matter how bad this adaptation is, no matter their quibbles like mine with the color of the outfits and the small edits and changes, they’re hoping that everyone will sign up to do Petals on the Wind. Not because it’s a good sequel, of course. But because it’s even more screwed up!