Flowers in the Attic: A Lifetime Movie Experience

Here. We. Go.
Here. We. Go.

There are too few opportunities in life to say, “I can’t believe they left out the blood-drinking!”.

Other than that, though, the Lifetime movie version of FitA was a pretty good time. They left in plenty of little moments that the ’80s version left out, and it was era-appropriate, and AND Christopher wasn’t the worst! (Although, having read the excerpt from Chris’s Diary on the Lifetime site, I can assure you that in the literary world he still is) So I took a bunch of notes and screen caps and I’m going to try to turn them into a cohesive recap for y’all right now.

FAIR WARNING: I’ve tried not to overdo with the ‘caps, but I found too many moments that I liked, and I know that not everyone got to see this/wanted to see it, so I want to make sure you get to envision it all. So maybe there will be too many screen caps? And they’ll be smaller than my usual images, to save your screens. Also, this is coming right before my last book recap, so SPOILERS abound, I will mention some of the big changes that they made to the ending, but I’ll try not to go overboard with comparisons.  So here we go!

foxworth hall door

We open with a pretty classic “pan through an abandoned old house and focus on dust and cloth-covered furniture and creep” as we hear Cathy do a voice over. Unlike the ’87 version, this one sticks to Young Cathy’s POV, rather than some far-off Adult Cathy, and uses a lot of the book in it; the “I thought life would always be perfect”, the fixation on the color yellow, but sadly no “Open the Window and Stand in the Sunshine”. Oh well. ALSO Foxworth Hall shouldn’t really be abandoned like this since so much of it burns down later on (SPOILER) but eh, I’ll let it slide I guess. We get one sad look at their paper flower garden and it is seriously the worst:

So blurry
So blurry

I expected more from you kids. Cathy brings up the whole Dresden Dolls thing and man oh man do they overuse that in the movie. In the book it’s a thing one of their father’s friends says, and I guess maybe it’s used in the neighborhood? but it comes up in the movie like it’s on their family crest. As Cathy winds up her voiceover we see the movie’s version of “We lived in the attic” and it’s…well…

Who wrote this?
Who wrote this?

Cathy was here! And she was six years old. And with that, we are in story-mode and it is the FIFTIES! You can tell it’s the Fifties because rock and roll music is playing while kids ride bikes in saddle shoes . We see Chris the Elder pulling into the Dollanganger estate in his sweet ride, while inside the kids are fighting because Chris has taken something of Cathy’s and she’s pissy about it. Chris throws the whatever-it-is and it narrowly avoids hitting Chris the Elder, his It’s-the-Fifties! hat, and their zebra wall art. Yes I said that.

He's okay.
Is that a hook rug?

Is it just me or are none of them blond enough? I know hair darkens when you get older, but in the books it’s always described as so golden. So hugs all around and Chris the Elder distributes presents (we see Cathy get her music box!) and then Corrine makes her grand entrance (in a negligee and robe) and wants to know where her present is. It’s a necklace, yay, but this movie sort of does what the ’87 one does too: it establishes discord between Corrine and Cathy a little before I think there really is any. In the ’80s version Corrine is shown to be pretty jealous of her husband and daughter’s relationship and in this one we see that Cathy is put-out by the attention her dad is paying to her mom. I just don’t think that’s there in the text, really, I think Cathy and Corrine are pretty close before her father dies, and even the resentment Cathy feels about not being ready for a relative’s death is sort of natural for what’s happened. I just think it’s a little too much to show that Cathy’s always had her mom’s number, rather than having her just be the first suspicious one later on. Corrine loves her necklace of course and then she and Chris the Elder make out in front of their kids.

let's all look down at our gifts now
Let’s all look down at our gifts now

Later on the family plays football in the backyard and Cathy gazes at her dad a bit and wishes that he never had to go away for work again. Corrine comes out with an apple pie all “I baked your favorite!” and Cathy immediately calls her out on the fact that Corrine’s forgotten to take the price tag off of it. (Which I totally also called when I saw a publicity shot of this moment on Facebook. Wooo!) Corrine has a tense little moment of haha my daughter you sure caught me! and Chris the Younger wants to know what’s up since Corrine’s wearing a new dress AND perfume. Oh Christopher. Corrine announces that their father is now a vice president and so she has to look appropriate! and Chris gathers the kids up to tell them that he’s now head of sales for the entire East Coast, which naturally makes Cathy run off to her room and mope.

You sit on a throne of lies.
You sit on a throne of lies.
Cathy's onto you.
Cathy’s onto you.

Chris the Elder comes in to talk to her and we learn that Cathy’s sure that his new position means that he’ll be gone all the time, Corrine will be busy with the twins, Christopher will think he’s in charge, and Cathy will get shafted. Chris the Elder gives her a ring to show that he’s always thinking about her (so this got moved till long after the twins were born, but it makes sense for a movie to start later on to save time) and it’s a pretty ring and all, but he makes sure to mention that he spent more money on it than he should have. Thanks Dad? More hugs and then it’s surprise party time! Carrie is shrieking about Cathy trying to straighten her braids or whatever and Corrine seems just a touch on edge considering that they have two hours to kill (PHRASING) till Chris the Elder comes home. Yet they’re all dressed already? Corrine’s gonna ice a cake in a cocktail dress? Sure thing. Carrie doesn’t want to dress up, but Chris says that they have to because they’re the Dresden Dolls and look. There’s not a sign outside that says that, guys, you don’t have to use it.  After assurances that they’re all perfect, the scene cuts to the party itself, which has actual other people at it and not just the immediate family like some other movies. Everything goes like you know it will: Chris the Elder is late; cops at the door; Chris is dead.

Am I going to have to get a job?
Am I going to have to get a job?

We get some scenes showing that they’re in bad shape: the twins don’t understand what dead means, Corrine’s wandering around sans makeup in an old robe, Cathy’s dance teacher won’t let her come back unless they pay for the last month; and Cathy and Corrine have a little moment where Corrine admits that she’s only ever been good at being “an ornament” and that while Cathy might look like her, she’s much more determined and was lucky to have a father who believed in her. And we get that “Some mothers are impossible to love” line that was in all the commercials. Corrine has Cathy mail a letter to Foxworth Hall, and we see the result of said letter in the next few days when Corrine tells Chris and Cathy about her rich parents and how they’re going to go and live with them. Neither are thrilled until Corrine points out that the bank’s going to be taking all of their stuff so they have to leave anyway. Awkward. I’m going to miss the zebra hanging most of all.

Let me explain what credit is.
Let me explain what credit is.

From there we’re on the night train to Foxworth Hall and we finally meet Olivia, who has the best hair, you guys. The finger waves! It’s like they’re cut with a knife! I’m so impressed. She shows the gang up to their room and the sheer amount of absolute frustrated disdain that this Olivia has for Corrine is amazing. “Corrine, GOD, the older kids can’t share a bed.” “Corrine, GOD, just put the girls in one and the boys in another.” “Corrine, GOD, this is the only room that works.” She has no respect for Corrine And it’s delicious. It doesn’t help that Corrine responds to everything like a teenager. “Mooooom, my kids are perfect!” “Moooooom, my kids are innocent!” The older kids take all of this a lot better than I think I would have, Olivia tells them she’s locking the door and not to open the curtains and whatnot and they’re both like “Oh okay” like she’d told them to be careful to jiggle the toilet handle or something. They do get a little freaked out when she starts in with the God sees what evil you do stuff, which is appropriate. Chris and Cathy question Corrine a bit, but their mom tells them her plan for winning her dad back and assures them that they won’t be up there long. We know better. Oh and Olivia totally takes Cathy’s ring! It’s random and mean and only serves to show that Olivia’s a bitch, Corrine won’t stand up to her mother, and that Olivia forbids any mention of Chris the Elder. Corrine literally just sits there. It’s awful.

But great hair.
But great hair.

The next morning Olivia brings up the first picnic basket and tells them the rules. She does say that she might bring them some fruit if they’re good. Oh thanks. It’s been noted a few times on Twitter and Facebook so it seems like a good place to bring it up in this recap: this Olivia is decidedly more sympathetic in parts than Book Olivia. I agree with what others said that I think they drew from Garden of Shadows a bit for this characterization. Don’t get me wrong, she’s by no means a better person or a more relatable character overall, but they added more moments like her mentioning the fruit and they left in a later scene where she brings the kids some flowers. She’s also much less sure of herself than I imagine Olivia being, in this scene with the rules, it’s almost like she’s not 100% sure that this is the right way to go, unlike her book counterpart who comes across as much more self-justified. I think it works and I think it helps to paint Corrine as the real villain, because Corrine is the worst thing of all time. Olivia tells them about the attic and they wander upstairs to look around. The twins are less than enthused but C&C try to point out all the fun things like dress-up clothes and record players.  I’m not super impressed with this attic, it’s too small and too cramped, it doesn’t look at all like it spans the whole top of the house. I don’t know that I’ll ever get an attic or a swan bed to suit me.

The twins are unimpressed.
Us either.

At dinner Carrie doesn’t want to eat cold chicken because she lacks taste, which leads to my favorite Cathy line in the whole movie, “Cripes, Carrie!” because that kind of sums up a lot of Carrie’s future storylines, both funny and sad. Chris tries to lighten the mood by doing an impression of Olivia, which leads to him tickling Cathy on one of the beds because sure and of course Corrine picks this moment to walk in. She immediately tries to pick up a little before her mother follows and she tells Olivia that the room’s a mess because the kids didn’t really understand the rules. Or because they’re kids, I don’t know. Olivia’s like they’ll get it or else and then she and Corrine leave again. Um. Okay. That was pointless. Cut to a little later, with the kids getting ready for bed, and Corrine comes back in to have the big whip marks on her back reveal. Before that happens however, the twins call C&C mean and want to be with Corrine, who tells them that they have to listen to their siblings “like your parents”, and Carrie starts in on her big Carrie tantrum. Olivia rushes in and Carrie screams at her, Olivia clamps her hands over her mouth (not as good as lifting by the hair, to be honest), Cory bites her, the whole deal. Even this is staged with maybe a touch more sympathy for Olivia, she’s much more reactionary in her shoving the twins around than “I don’t care about these children”. Does that make sense? Corrine breaks it up and threatens to leave immediately if Olivia is cruel to the kids, but her mother just laughs at her and tells her to go then. Surprisingly, she does not, and we get a nice reaction shot of Cathy wondering what her mom’s deal is. Again, the disdain Olivia has for Corrine is palpable.


I really love this Olivia, guys. Ellen Burstyn is bringing it. Corrine reveals her back and everyone (sans Olivia) is horrified. We get the first mention of devil spawn, always a classic good time! The group reaction shots of the kids aren’t always the best, unfortunately, there’s a lot of staring, but only Cathy really reacts? I guess it’s supposed to be her dawning suspicions, but I find it pretty noticeable. We return the next day, where Corrine has sat everyone down to assure them that her back’s okay and to have the awkward incest conversation. Cathy wants to know why Olivia said those things about them and about their dad and Corrine’s like welllllll okay. Corrine starts off by talking about how close she and Malcolm were while she was growing up. There’s no mention of Mal or Joel, but I’m not surprised. They also drop the “We were never allowed fun or joy!” angle and paint a picture of Malcolm and Corrine sailing and hunting together, making Olivia more jealous all the while. Olivia eventually managed to drive a wedge between Corrine and her father, which left poor Corrine lonely and bereft until the day her dad’s half-brother came to town. We hear the Tale of Chris and Corrine, but! this time, instead of finding it immediately romantic and tragic, Cathy has a much, much better reaction when she realizes that the uncle her mother is talking about is their father.

Aw, Mom had a friend!
Aw, Mom had a friend!

Even Chris is like “Oh ew, Mom. Come on.” It’s fantastic. Corrine spends this whole confession playing with her necklace and glancing around guiltily like a 17-year old. It’s kind of great how very teen-like she is this whole movie, it really plays into this idea that she sees this whole endeavor as her second chance to be the little princess again and not have to worry about things like kids and being a mom and responsibility. She assures the kids that they’re perfect and amazing and warns them that love doesn’t also come when you want it to (FORESHADOWING) and Cathy spends this whole revelation absolutely appalled. Chris is of course right on Corrine’s side, but Cathy has more questions about why Olivia’s allowed them all there. Corrine says that her mother wants to punish her as well and that she’s just as much a prisoner as the kids are. UH HUH. The kids decorate the attic and Cathy’s already started a calendar and knows that Corrine has gone a week without visiting. She runs down to get water for Chris’s painting and runs into Olivia, she tells her about the fake garden they’re making for the twins, which leads to Olivia later bringing them “real flowers for their fake garden”. ALMOST A FEELING. Even the tempo of Cathy and Olivia’s conversation is different, Olivia’s almost chatty when she says she hopes Cathy hasn’t inherited Corrine’s’ artistic talents, which are non-existent, (noting that Corrine’s only talent was for men) and when Cathy mentions that she’s a dancer and Chris is a good painter, Olivia almost seems less than immediately evil when she asks if Chris has ever painted Cathy. She turns on a dime, though, immediately suspecting the absolute worst and demanding that Cathy tell her the truth. When Cathy denies it and points out that she doesn’t even know what Olivia’s always getting at, Olivia tells her to ask Chris. Ewwwww.

Corrine arrives all short-shorts and headscarf with some games and painting supplies and tells her kids about how she went sailing! (UGH) Cathy is like “Say what now” but Chris just compliments the color Corrine got. STOP IT. The twins want Corrine to stay for their bedtime, but she has to go to the movies with an old friend, since said friend keeps asking and asking and Corrine can’t keep making excuses, can she?

Boo, you whore.
Boo, you whore.

Cathy’s already had enough of this, thank you, and wants to know why Corrine isn’t telling Malcolm since they’ve been there a whole month. Corrine has many excuses but Cathy eventually gets it out of her that, oops, she can’t ever tell her father about them because she’s back in her dad’s good graces only if she never had any children with Chris the Elder. She does offer to cancel her movie plans though! Mom of the Year. But then Cathy snarks that she should go since they’ll be fine so Corrine goes. Good talk. Later on C&C are sitting on the roof discussing their grandfather’s illness and their mom’s new wardrobe when Carrie appears at the window to complain that she and Cory were playing hide n seek but now Cory won’t come out. Alarmed, the older two go looking and find Cory unconscious in a locked trunk. There’s a commercial break here to make it really dramatic, but Cory’s okay. Christmastime comes along and Cathy gets the idea to make something for Olivia, in the hopes that she might learn to like them a little bit. It’s…anti-climatic. Instead of a needlework/multi-media thing, it’s more of a collage, and instead of tearing it apart when Olivia ignores it, Cathy just throws it down. Lame. Corrine shows up with presents; the big doll house for Cory and Carrie, and clothes for Chris, including a shirt that she thinks looks perfect on him because “You look just like your father when I first met him”. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. Nope. She also got Cathy a pretty dress that Cathy is forced to point out that she has no place to wear, AND hey a TV. Now they can stare at that all day. While the twins are fawning over the television, Corrine tells C&C that her father’s attorney Bart has told her that she’s going to be back in the will, inheriting everything, AND her dad is throwing her a big crazy shindig that night. Cathy wants to know if they can go and the hiding-in-a-cupboard plot is hatched.

The party is suitably fancy, but I was pretty disappointed in Corrine’s dress. It’s very pretty, but kind of eh when compared to the description of the green velvet one that she wears in the book. This one was very beige. Cathy wears her new party dress to spy on the party, which is very sad to me. At the party, a maid compliments Corrine and is overheard by Olivia, who later has her fired, and Corrine and Olivia clash a bit over the party and Malcolm’s return to spoiling Corrine rotten. Oh and John Amos is around (he’s the one told to fire the maid) but he’s more neutral too and seemingly afraid of Olivia. Meh. Malcolm is wheeled into the party, causing Corrine to light up like a Christmas tree then skip over to get in front of Olivia and KISS HER FATHER ON THE MOUTH.

It's an okay dress.
It’s an okay dress.
For a LONG time.
For a LONG time.

Malcolm gives Corrine a necklace that belonged to his mother (oh boy) and to her mother before her, and assures his daughter that this is just the beginning of all the stuff she’s gonna get. Olivia looks like she’s going to collapse, but gets a good burn in when Corrine goes to admire the necklace in the mirror, noting that maybe one day Corrine will have a daughter to pass it onto. Daaamn. Chris and Cathy are sneaking back to their room when Bart Winslow comes out of somewhere and they hide. Corrine shows up right afterwards and it’s clear that she and Bart are involved. He makes reference to starting their lives together, “Just the two of us” and it’s clear that Chris and Cathy are upset. And rightly so, don’t get me wrong. Chris decides to sneak around a while and explore, but sans his disguise, which saddens me, and on his adventures he sees Malcolm getting oxygen and hears Bart teasing Corrine about her famous swan bed. This encourages Chris to go and see for himself and meh.

Are there lights in that headboard?
Are there lights in that headboard?

I am so tired of these lame ass swan beds! It’s supposed to be all sweeping and teardrop-shaped and intense! Where are my bed draperies? Boooooo! BOOOOOOO! Chris looks around at all of the feathers and jewelry and stuff and he’s clearly taken aback by how much their mother really has, even though the room seems really small to me. All of these creeping takes too long, however, as Corrine gets to their room first and wakes Cathy up in a panic, looking for Chris. She starts shaking Cathy, angrily asking if Cathy knows what would happen if anyone found out about them, just when everything’s coming up Corrine! and she pushes Cathy backwards and yells that they’re never going to leave the room again, not for anything. Cathy’s like hold on mom when Chris comes in and Corrine slaps him and tells him that if he ever does that again she’ll whip him and Cathy, then she storms out and locks the door. Corrine has some anger management issues. The next morning while the kids are at breakfast Corrine comes in and says hello, when the kids don’t answer she jokingly (?) asks if she should get Santa to take back all their gifts (which gets a swift reaction from Carrie) and Cathy tells the twins to go play. They leave without a word to Corrine and she sits with her older two at the table. She apologizes for the night before, but she ends everything with a question mark? I didn’t mean it? I was afraid we’d be found out? And lose everything? Which is more teen nonsense that just suits her so well. She tells them that she’d never hurt them, they have to believe her, and to punctuate this, she KISSES CHRISTOPHER ON THE MOUTH.


PLEASE NOTE: I am not trying to say that mouth kisses are evil and wrong. But these are very long. And very deliberate. And have hands on the side of the face. And she only kisses male relatives this way, AND only when she’s being manipulative. This is not okay stuff. Cathy, choosing to ignore this, asks Corrine about Bart. Corrine plays it off at first, but tries to convince the kids that they should be happy that she and Bart are together since he’s Malcolm’s lawyer and can help them! When they don’t seem to buy it Corrine goes into guilt trip mode and starts declaring this whole thing a mistake (YES), that no amount of money in the world is worth her children not loving her (CORRECT) and that they should leave! Leave right now! She stands up from the table all dramatically then turns and flings open the door. But!!! She does have to mention that if they leave now, then they can never ever ever come back, and then they’ll be poor and sad and homeless. She waits for them to say something, but only looks at Chris. Cathy is unimpressed. Naturally, Chris stands up and goes over to Corrine, saying that of course he loves her, and they hug. The twins run over and join the hug too. Reluctantly, Cathy gets up and joins the hug and Corrine does not seem too thrilled about it either.

Just keeping hugging Corinne, it'll all be over soon.
Just keeping hugging, Corrine, it’ll all be over soon.

Shouldn’t someone shut that door?

A maid comes in to clean the room on one of the Fridays when they have to hide and opens the window to show green leaves on the trees. TIME PASSING. I’ve never bought that these maids wouldn’t pick up on the fact that someone’s living in there. Cathy’s calendar of chalk Xs on the wall grows and grows and she realizes that they’ve been up there for a year. She runs to tell Christopher, who is otherwise engaged on the roof.

Ten feet away from his siblings, as per usual.
Ten feet away from his siblings, as per usual.

Cathy wants to know why he wants to look at that and Chris just shoos her away, but we cut to Corrine giving Cathy some version of The Talk that’s basically “Soooo men and women love each other and have many feelings. Your body’s going to change in unelaborated-upon ways. Chris is going to have to shave and…other stuff. Here’s a bra! Bye!” Helpful as always, Corrine. Cathy tries the bra on and Chris wanders in, which is the set-up for Olivia walking in and the subsequent hair-cutting threats. It’s such a weird set up though. Cathy’s standing in front of a full-length mirror, which I guess is right down the wall from their front door? But Chris comes from that direction too? I need diagrams. Olivia mocks Cathy’s “vanity” and asks how often she’s let Chris “use” her, which Cathy doesn’t get and Chris is like I WALKED IN BY MISTAKE TOTALLY BY MISTAKE STOP MAKING THIS WORSE. Olivia grabs a super-convenient pair of scissors (it’s like props for a play, everything’s right there) and threatens to cut Cathy’s hair. When Chris stands up to her she changes the terms: Chris cuts the hair, or none of them eat for a week.

Now, I understand time restraints (does she, you ask as you scroll this mighty page) but I’m super disappointed in how they handle the starvation arc. We see them all lying around the attic while the twins complain that they’re still hungry and Cathy encouragingly tells them that they just have to ration till Momma comes back and Chris gives the twins his food. Then we see Cathy looking at her hair in a mirror while Chris comes in with a big bottle of water. Cathy tries to grab the scissors and cut her hair, but Chris stops her, saying that they can’t let Olivia control them. Cathy says sadly that the twins don’t look good and Chris suggests checking the mouse traps when the door opens and Olivia brings them their food.

Well okay. There’s no clear indication of how long went by, there’s no mention that she said it’d be one week but then it was two, and there’s no blood-drinking! That’s Chris’s big moment! I named my viewing-cocktail(s) after it! (Blood orange liqueur and pomegranate juice) Nope. Just one scene of “I’m hungry” and then food is there. She even brought them fruit! I guess they needed the screen time for the incest.

However! All is not as rosy as they may think, as Cathy wakes up the next morning to…a head o’tar. Well, more “charming highlights dipped in tar” but it’s still a no good situation. Chris is unable to get the tar out, so much like in the ’80s movie, he’s forced to cut all of Cathy’s hair off and the end result is this:

We didn't start this, we didn't mean it to happen, but we're not givin' up til you pay. Fair is fair!
We didn’t start this, we didn’t mean it to happen, but we’re not givin’ up till you pay. Fair is fair!

During the wig, I mean hair-cutting scene, the Cs have some awkward conversation wherein Cathy tells Chris that none of this was his fault, as he only looked at her, and Chris laments that he tries so hard not to think about girls but he wishes that Cathy wasn’t (creepy shoulder-stroking) so close. Cathy’s like you do think I’m pretty! and Chris concurs, but tells her that brothers don’t think of their sisters that way. More time jump madness as in the next scene Cathy is dancing in the attic and her hair is now chin-length. Chris is painting at a table near her, and when Cathy tries to get him to dance and he refuses, she steals his paintbrush and runs away. He tackles her to a nearby mattress (OH BOY) and in the process tears the sleeve of her leotard. When she protests that he says it’s not his fault that she’s outgrown it (and other things) but this line of conversation is broken up by the appearance of the twins, who want to know when they’re going to outgrow things. Oh munchkins. Cut to Chris and Cathy trying to get the twins onto the roof for some sunshine but no dice. After the twins run off Cathy gazes out into the woods nearby and announces that they’re getting out of here. Yay! An escape plan! Oh wait. You just meant to go swimming. SIGH. So C&C climb down a super-convenient length of rope they found and make their way out to a pond, where they go swimming for a while and then lay around talking about Chris thinks Corrine is. Pretty from the book, only with the inclusion of a little doe, wandering innocently ’round the forest, whom Cathy feeds some leaves. After this we get the “Cory gets a mouse!” and “Oh look Corrine’s back!” scenes that are pretty close to the book too. I wonder if they realized how long it was getting?

So Corrine is back and she’s married to Bart and she brought Chris a magnifying glass (It’s an antique!) and he actually throws it! Go Chris! Reject her stupid gifts! (oh and we get spoken confirmation that they’ve been up there for more than two years) Corrine pulls some more crap, saying that they AGREED to stay there so they can’t complain now, and don’t they have food and books? When Chris points out that the twins don’t even recognize her, she claims “I’m the only one that loves them!” but it’s clear even she doesn’t believe that anymore. Cathy knows she hasn’t told Bart they exists and we get a nice callback to the pie scene as Corrine coldly notes that she never could get anything past Cathy. Later, after Corrine’s left and the kids are down in their bedroom, Olivia comes in with a plate of donuts. UH OH. She tells them that they’re from their mother and it’s obvious that Olivia is not 100% behind Corrine’s plan here as she’s clearly uncomfortable talking to them and she specifically tells them that she wouldn’t eat them if she were them, as they’re “not good for your health”.

Sugar will kill you. I said, SUGAR will KILL you.
Sugar will kill you. I said, SUGAR will KILL you.

Later on, Chris looks sadly out the window at the doe wandering around the lawn, as Cathy comes up and suggests that they try to run away using the rope, believing that if they just explained to the twins why they had to go outside it might work, but Chris bursts out that he knows all of that. Cathy wants to know why they’re still there then, and realizes it’s because Chris still has faith in Corrine. He wants to know what choice he has (not having faith in proven liar Corrine?) and where they’re supposed to go from there, and then John Amos shoots the deer ON THE LAWN because it’s MEANINGFUL YOU GUYS. Olivia comes in then and yells at Chris to get away from the window and he stands up to her, telling her that his name is Christopher like his father’s (she only calls him ‘boy’) and she grabs a belt and tells him to take his shirt off. When he doesn’t, she threatens to whip Cathy and the twins, so Cathy grabs the twins up to the attic and Christopher gets whipped. After Olivia leaves, Cathy cleans up Chris’s wounds and talks about how scared she was something would happen to him and they kiss. OH BOY.

Now, I knew that at least this kiss was happening, it was in the ads, and I was honestly surprised since the earlier movie really avoids any of the incest except for some hints here and there and Corrine and Chris the Elder’s original relationship. I wasn’t sure how far they’d take it and I really wasn’t expecting the next scene, which starts with a pretty guilty-looking Chris sitting at the table with the Bible, while Cathy tells him that she’s not sorry it happened even if it’s supposed to be a sin, because it felt good and romantic, didn’t it? Calm down Cathy, geez. Before Chris can answer, Olivia walks in and sees the pair of them. She’s immediately horrified because Cathy is leaning over Chris’s shoulder in her nightgown (HORRORS) and demands to know what’s going on. Chris, to Cathy’s shock, tells Olivia that she was right about them all along. Chris admits that yes, they are the Devil’s spawn. Olivia looks half “I knew it!” and half “OMG WTF” (as does Cathy in the background). Chris starts walking over to Olivia with Bible in hand, emphasizing his words with it as he notes that when people do evil things it’s not God urging them on, is it, it’s the Devil! He then drops to his knees in front of Olivia, grasping her hand tightly and asking if she can ever forgive them? Olivia gives Cathy an amazing “Okay what is happening??” look and Cathy is equally as confuddled. Olivia puts her hand on Chris’s shoulder and tells him that only God can forgive him and that “prayer is the key to your salvation”. She leaves then, I guess because she’s extremely confused, and Chris starts to laugh. Turns out he had a piece of soap in his palm the whole time, so when he grabbed Olivia’s hand, he made an imprint of her key. A little too convenient, especially since his technique in the book is simpler, but that was a pretty hilarious scene so I’ll give this one to Chris.

Chris carves their new key out of wood and he and Cathy realize that they can steal from their mother since she’s careless with her money. Cut to the pair of them stealing from Corrine’s room (well, Chris doing it) while Cathy tries things on. It goes down much like in the book, only Chris stops short of telling her she looks like a prostitute. She does look like she’s in a community theater presentation of Cabaret, though. She finds the How to Create Your Own Needlepoint Designs book in a cabinet and in this version it’s much tamer, mostly just an art book, but she and Chris are nonetheless shocked and appalled.

Not nymphs and satyrs!
Not nymphs and satyrs!

Cathy counts their haul and finds that they only have $30, Chris thinks they need at least a thousand. Cathy points out that could take weeks and that they need to leave now. The twins go over and look out the window and Cathy calls to them that she’d promised Cory her donut if he’d sit still (OH NOOOOO) but they don’t like the hammering noises. Curious, C&C go over to find that a large fence is being built around the yard. Well huh. That night Chris heads outside to check on the fence and see if they’d even have a way out at all and Cathy continues to their mom’s room to look for more money. Chris finds that there’s not only a fence but an electrified fence and Cathy finds a sleeping Bart Winslow.

Seriously, that's the smallest bed I've ever seen.
Seriously, that’s the smallest bed I’ve ever seen.

Cathy decides that the best use of her time is to kiss Sleeping Bartly there and then run away. Well sure, why not. Chris makes his way back to the house but as he’s heading to their room he overhears Corrine and Bart coming and hides. (deja vu) Corrine doesn’t care about Bart misplacing his wallet, but Bart insists the maids are stealing because he’s noticed money missing from their room. Corrine cares not for small denominations, she cares that Bart abandoned her at their dinner party to go take a nap. Bart complains about having to sit across from Olivia and Corrine assures him that she wants to move out as soon as possible too. Bart tells Corrine that he had the craziest dream earlier: that a beautiful young blonde girl (like Corrine, only younger and more innocent) crept in and kissed him right on the lips! It’s unclear whether Corrine gets what really happened, but Chris sure does.

Now, here’s where I started to worry. There’s only 15 minutes left and I thought “Oh my god, can they really do that scene and then end it? Or are they just going to make it into a fight?” In case you don’t know, in the book, Cathy’s kissing Bart is what “causes” she and Chris to fight, and Chris to rape her. (I put causes in quotes because it’s obviously not her fault) I didn’t know if they’d go there here, and for the better (in my opinion) they don’t. Instead, Chris confronts Cathy about kissing Bart, he does get angry and grab her arms, but when she calls out that he’s hurting her he stops. (not good, obviously, but an improvement) Cathy tells him she knows he didn’t mean it, they start kissing, and then they move off-screen and when it comes back they’re in bed together. I’ve read some reactions to the movie and have seen that people didn’t like that the scene changed, but I’m as okay with it as I was ever going to be. I thought they’d leave any sexual stuff until the Petals movie, when they’d have older actors and could put it amidst all of the drama and revenge. I don’t mind them changing it from a rape scene (that people still read as a love scene, gdi) to an actual love scene. I don’t think the rape is ever well dealt with in the books at all, and I think that if they’re making Chris less possessive and intense over this whole movie, then this made sense within both the time restraints and the story restraints they’d established. I will admit that I’m still hashing out some of this, so I’m interested in everyone else’s thoughts on the matter, too.

Cathy wants them to move to Sarasota where the circus people go and Chris agrees, saying they could be in the freak show. Ouch. Cathy tells him that they’ll forget this ever happened and never let it happen again but he tells her that he wants to feel this way. Cathy does not seem on board with this entirely, but Chris tells her that he loves her and he doesn’t know if he can ever love anyone else. The answer is no, Chris, just FYI. They’re interrupted by Carrie (GAH!) running in to tell them that Cory is sick. The kids all sit around Cory’s bed when Olivia and Corrine enter. Chris tells them that Cory’s been vomiting for hours and needs a doctor, Corrine just stands and stares. Worst poisoner ever, god. What did you think would happen? Cathy’s done with this and confronts Corrine about being Cory’s mother, or has she forgotten?? Corrine narrows her eyes and just spits “You. It’s always you” and slaps Cathy, who promptly slaps her right back. Hooray! Chris tells Cathy to stop (shut up) but she tells Corrine that one day all of her secrets will be out, and Bart and Malcolm won’t think she’s so perfect when they found out. Olivia’s loving this, and tells Corrine that Cathy’s right and Cory needs a hospital. Corrine gathers him up and they leave. The next day, however, Corrine returns alone and tells them that though the doctors did all they could, Cory died of pneumonia. She can’t even look them in the eyes when she’s telling them. There won’t be a funeral as he’s already buried, then as they all start to cry, she apologizes lamely and leaves.

Chris and Cathy decide that tonight’s the night that they’re leaving, they’ll just take everything they can from Corrine’s room (cash, jewelry, etc) and go. Unfortunately, when they get there, well…

Classic Corinne
Classic Corrine

Everything is gone, except for a framed picture of their father, Cathy’s ring, and the necklace he’d given Corrine. They find that left in a drawer. Ice cold. She had Cathy’s ring the whole time and never gave it back?? WTF Corrine. Even Chris has to admit that Corrine is dead to them now. Back in their room C&C make their escape plan and it’s not terrible: They’ll use the key and head out at dinner, when the servants and family are all busy; Cathy and Carrie will wait by the fence for Chris to shut it off, then they all meet by the lake and head to the train. Chris heads out into the house to steal more stuff and, naturally, finds out more than he wants to know along the way. Namely that their grandmother wears a wig and has been taking arsenic up to the attic to kill the “mice”, and that their grandfather has been dead for seven months. OOPS. Meanwhile, Cathy is packing their clothes while Carrie feeds Mickey a piece of donut that she’d saved for “when Cory came back from the hospital” OH MY GOD and by the time Chris gets back, Mickey is dead. Surprise! The donuts are covered in arsenic.

Chris left the door open while they were talking so Olivia is able to walk right in with a switch and demand their key. She comes at Chris with the switch and he grabs her arm, but has a coughing fit in the middle and falls to the floor. The switch also falls and Cathy grabs it, but is unable to bring herself to hit Olivia with it, even as Olivia’s taunting her. Olivia tells them again that they were never meant to be born and demands the key. Chris makes like he’s giving to her, but grabs her hand at the last minute and gives the key to Cathy with the other, telling her to run to the attic. (Olivia is claustrophobic, and never goes up there, I forget if I mentioned that) As Cathy and Carrie run up the stairs, Olivia is able to grab Carrie’s leg but Chris comes in behind Olivia and shuts the door. Olivia is immediately panicked and demands that he open it. Cathy and Carrie run up to the attic while Olivia pleads with Chris that she needs the door to be open. When he realizes what’s happening he moves toward the light switch, leading to more pleading, but he turns off the lights anyway. This whole part was hard, honestly, because Olivia is a bad person. But then this is happening too:


And it’s rough. Chris moves past her to Cathy and Carrie and Cathy steps back toward Olivia to tell her that God does see everything and He’ll punish her for what she did to them and to Cory. Olivia cries that it wasn’t her, it was Corrine who poisoned them. Though Chris and Cathy are clearly shocked by this, Cathy says that it doesn’t matter anymore and they continue up to the attic, leaving Olivia alone in the dark. They climb down the rope again, sans all their stuff (this bothers me for spoilery reasons, mainly that certain items they find in one of their suitcases are important to Cathy’s plans later) but oh well, and they take off across the lawn. OH and Chris makes Cathy carry Carrie down. Nice one. And the rope breaks before Cathy and Carrie reach the bottom, just for good measure. They’re fine, don’t worry about it. So they’re running across the lawn when they’re stopped by John Amos and his hunting rifle. Cathy explains that they’re Corrine’s kids and I guess he totally thinks Corrine capable of having secret kids because he lets them go and tells them he’ll turn off the fence. Well okay. That was pointless. Why are they encountering all of these obstacles now? They’re sick and broke children, I think they can be granted a couple suitcases and a pillowcase of stolen goods while making an unencumbered escape. Damn. So off they run and get on a train (should be a bus but whatever) and as they ride off we’re treated to another Cathy voice over, this one promising that though they felt alive and had everything ahead of them now, someday they’d see Corrine again and “all their shame and hopelessness would become her’s.” Oh and how. And how.

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS THIS IS A NOVELLA. Why didn’t you stop me? This is insane. Okay, closing thoughts: I really liked it. I did. It was fun to watch and to tweet with folks about, and I think they did a good job of capturing a lot of the little moments that make this book what it is. I think the change in the Chris/Cathy scene is going to be a lasting point of controversy, but hey, discussion is a good thing. Those of you who watched it, what did you think? Are you excited for a Petals movie? Have you ever lied about baking a pie? Why can’t they run away just once with their stuff in a movie?

I hope you enjoyed reading this lengthy thing! This is my first-ever movie recap, I clearly have editing to learn, haha. We’ll see if I do better with the ’87 version eventually. Until then, I hope you liked it, and thank you for reading! Oh and WELCOME to the new readers that have come by recently, I’m so happy that you’re here!

See you soon with the conclusion of FitA (the book) and then the infinitely amazing melodrama that is Petals on the Wind.


22 Comments Add yours

  1. Peachy says:

    AMAZING. Loved the movie recap and adore reading your book recaps! I DVR’ed the movie but haven’t watched it yet… not sure it’s even worth it now! And you’re right, that beige dress is a BIG letdown.

    1. Megan says:

      I would definitely still watch it, it’s pretty fun and there were a lot of great little moments I just could cram in here. Thank you for reading!!

  2. Tashina says:

    This was lovely. Olivia was, IMO, the best acting in the movie and I did enjoy that they made her a bit more sympathetic so we could focus our attention on how bloody awful Corinne is and how she deserves awful things happening to her.

    I am looking forward to Petals, and I hope they actually show the part where Carrie sees Corinne in town and grabs her hand, rather than hearing about it later from Carrie, but it’s probably such a small moment it’ll be left out. It’d be worth it to show the look of disgust on Corinne’s face, and to make her even more horrible. God, I hate Corinne.

    1. Megan says:

      Oh maaan that scene would be a killer, I hope they add it too. I think it’s a great Lifetime TV moment, you know?

  3. Belle says:

    Amazing recap!

    I couldn’t believe they left out the blood drinking too! But I also enjoyed that Christopher was not THE WORST. Especially with not raping his sister and all. The rape was really problematic in the book on so many levels, but the way it just kind of happens and isn’t really dealt with and Cathy acts as though she was to blame and even wanted it is ugh… I’m really glad they changed it, actually.

    I thought Olivia was way more sympathetic and awesome. I was disappointed with some of the same things, like the attic, swan bed, and Corinne’s dress. I was very disturbed by the long mouth kisses too and I think it showed how needy Corinne was of the love of the men in her life. Or something. You make a really good point about how she’s portrayed in a very teen-like way! That is so accurate and now that I think about it pretty well done.

    I was a little annoyed about all the last-minute obstacles too, it’s like, was three years of abuse not enough drama?!

    But overall I really liked it and I am SO excited about Petals on the Wind!! I wonder who they’ll cast as Cathy and if they’ll recast the adults/Christopher?

    P.S. Watching the movie inspired me to reread the series, I started with Garden of Shadows, and I thought I’d try recapping it on my blog – hope you don’t mind 🙂

    1. Megan says:

      Haha, of course not! There is more than enough bananas insanity to go around. XD

      I kind of hope Heather Graham comes back, I’d like to see her using all those teen mannerisms up against vengeful Cathy at the end, up until Corinne loses it (or does she?).

      1. Belle says:

        Have you seen this?

        It makes me feel bad about enjoying and laughing about VC Andrews books in a way – but I don’t think enjoyment/mockery of the stories is necessarily mocking real life victims… what do you think? I feel very confused.

      2. Megan says:

        I hadn’t seen it, but having read it now it does raise interesting points. I don’t think that enjoying these books belittles real victims or real-life serious issues, I really don’t. I feel like the incest in the books is usually shown to be of the “forbidden love” variety rather than presented as abuse, though obviously I find issues with Chris and Cathy’s relationship (and there are more troubling individuals on the horizon). Heroines fall in love with people to whom they are later found to be related, but once the familial relationship is discovered, the romantic relationships end (at least for the heroine) and so while I think a lot of the whole V.C. Andrews mystique is tied up in the idea of “everyone in these books marries their brother”, the Dollangangers are really the only series that carries that throughout? I don’t feel like any of that makes sense.

        I don’t know, it is confusing. I try to steer clear of snarking any actual references to assault and I do hope that if anyone is ever offended or bothered by anything I write that they let me know, since I never want anyone to think that I’m making light of serious issues and I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable here.

  4. The start of the movie confused me – when was the house that deserted and left to dust? Would it be when only Olivia was left and Corrine and Bart weren’t living there again? So, start of ‘Petals’? Or, am I overthinking this….?

    1. Megan says:

      See, I wondered the same thing. Offhand I don’t remember a time when it was like that. So, pre FitA, Malcolm & Olivia are living there and it’s in all its glory; then FitA they and Corinne (and later Bart) live there; then in Petals I felt like Olivia was there and it was still pretty great? Especially since Corinne and Bart move back later? Then there’s the fire, and I think through all of If There Be Thorns it’s an abandoned husk, then Joel and Bart Jr. bring it back in Seeds of Yesterday? I know too much about this house?

      I guess they just thought an abandoned house was a good set piece.

      1. Cee says:


        Do I know my Faulknerian tropes or what? 😉

      2. Megan says:

        Haha I like it! Let’s go with that.

  5. Regina Tomorrow says:

    EPIC RECAP! Loved reading this, I kept cracking up so much that I had to stop drinking my hot cocoa! Anyway I enjoyed this adaptation too since it was so much more faithful to the book. I also liked the fact that Olivia was presented as more sympathetic as it humanized her (much like Garden of Shadows did) and Ellen Burstyn was great. I really liked the expression on her face when the kids give her the Christmas collage–so conflicted, and then she collects herself and leaves the room. Nice.

    And yeah, the way in which the incest stuff was handled made sense considering that a) this was a made-for-tv movie on basic cable, b) the time constraints/taboo subject matter, and c) the ages of the characters and the actors portraying them. In other words I’m glad that that aspect of the story wasn’t ignored, but dealt with in the most “tasteful” (for lack of a better word) way possible. Because as you stated the rape portion of the book was problematic, so I was a bit surprised to see it changed to a “love” scene instead, but yeah it made more sense to me too, so I wasn’t at all upset about the change. But it was somewhat odd to have Carrie bust in on Cathy and Chris right after Chris professes his undying love to Cathy in bed–yikes.

    I am looking forward to the idea of Petals being made into a movie, and I’m also curious to see what the casting will be like for that one. I read that they were going to do a version of Petals back in the day after the first movie, and that Kristy Swanson and Louise Fletcher were both approached to reprise their roles, but that it fell through which I thought was interesting.

    Oh and props for throwing in the “Legend of Billie Jean” reference, haha, LOVED that! And I had to laugh at the part in the movie where Chris makes a copy of the master key from what appears to be a wooden ruler (I could be wrong)– it made me think of your last book recap and the whole ruler episode– I’m paraphrasing here, “OH GOD, PLEASE LET IT BE A DIFFERENT RULER!”

    I could go on, but I’ll wrap it up by saying that wouldn’t it be kind of cool if they filmed the rest of the books in the Dollanganger series after Petals, as well as My Sweet Audrina? Although I don’t know if Lifetime could get away with doing a made-for-tv version of that book, but who knows?

    1. Megan says:

      Thank you so much for reading!

      Yeah, what was with Carrie running in at that point? They couldn’t put that anywhere else? They couldn’t at least have been dressed?? That was bizarre. I really only noticed it when I re-watched it for the recap, I think I’d mentally inserted a scene where they’re not IN BED TOGETHER when their little sister comes in upset. Ai yi yi.

      HAHAHAHAHAHA I hadn’t even made the connection with the ruler, oh my GOD, that’s amazing. MAKE BETTER CHOICES CHRISTOPHER.

      I would really like to see a My Sweet Audrina movie, but I have a hard time imagining how it could be done given the ages of the characters involved. But it’s SO bananas that I would love to see a take on it.

  6. Belle says:

    That makes total sense. I don’t think you ever make light of the serious stuff for what it’s worth! And yes the incest is largely framed as “forbidden love”, the abuse comes in other forms doesn’t it (cough Grandmother cough)

  7. The Wes Craven script treatment for the 1987 Flowers on the Attic also turns Chris’s rape of Cathy into consensual sex. I think it’s the only real way to handle it in a screenplay. You can’t spend this much time building up a character (Chris) as sympathetic, then turn him into a rapist and expect the audience to forget it immediately after it happens. Something like that’s going to color the audience’s perception of that character for the rest of the film, and there’s no way to squeeze in an appropriate retribution on top of everything else going on. Character-wise, it’s more acceptable for them to have had consensual sex, and I think it makes for a more interesting dynamic, since instead of Cathy gradually falling in love with her rapist (which is creepy and gross), she has to fight her feelings for her brother (which is still creepy and gross, but also sort of tragic).

    1. Megan says:

      EXACTLY. I completely agree with you.

  8. Cee says:

    GREAT recap! Fantastic job. Yes, I too was disappointed with the Swan Bed, I thought it was round! And IIRC the scene when Corrine slaps Chris the night of the party–THAT’S when Cathy stops idolizing her mother, that’s when she first starts becoming suspicious. Because she says “for a moment there she sounded exactly like the grandmother.”

    The hair. Oy gevalt, I HATED how they handled that–why do these adaptation insist on cutting her hair? The whole point is that in the end her hair is SAVED–Chris works on her hair all day to save the hair. The hair is talked about so much that it’s almost another character. And Kiernan Shipka is a fine actor but really does not look like Cathy IMO (and her voice is awfully low–I mean, she really can’t help that, I just think they could’ve found someone who looks and sounds a bit more conventional)

    1. Megan says:

      Thank you!!

      Yeah, I don’t get why the hair stuff is always changed. Her hair is basically the fifth sibling, it’s so glorious and golden and wavy and flowing, and then Jory flips out in Petals when she DOES cut it off. I don’t get the point of changing it, especially since it ultimately doesn’t matter.

  9. Ha! You write exactly at the same rate and speed that I think! LOVED THIS. Just wanted to tell you that I’m a fellow blogger and you are one of only 2 FITA blogs that I consider awesome. It’s sort of a dysfunctional relief to have found a couple peers who thrive on love/loathing of this quasi-masterpiece.

    Anyway, after 2 movies now, I’ve been getting kid of antsy these days for someone to blow the dust off the Wes Craven script and take a stab at it on screen (with some appropriate edits). As The Fifth Dollanganger mentioned above (btw she’s the other blogger I love!), I totally think the Chris/Cathy thing was orchestrated in that script so the people in the audience didn’t gag. It was so much more believable and palatable (even from the book version), whereas the Lifetime movie decidedly ignored neglect and abuse as character motivation and instead pinned the sexual tension all on Chris having a porn addiction. On a side note, I’ve always felt that Andrews has a decidedly bodice-rippery “I say no, but really mean yes” antiquated non-consensual spin to her work – I guess it was the sign of the times – and although people would slam for saying this: I didn’t see that rape scene in the book as a rape at all (strictly in terms of how it was written).

    Do any of us feel that this book just doesn’t have the raw goods to make an satisfyingly deep movie? I think it can be done in the hands of the right director who can dig deeper and spackle some of the character development issues… I feel it either has to go for surface horror with limited depth (e.g. Craven), or be entirely deconstructed and put back together in a new way.

    You might know this already but if you read below, this guy actually sounds passionate about the project – it would be cool to see a script written by the hands of someone who loved the book and seems to really be invested in it.

    I guess there’s always hope that in another 27 years Hollywood will make better version that would satisfy us, the frustrated literati. Who has that kind of time!

    1. Megan says:

      Thank you!! We should totally have a convention. AndrewsCon or something, we bloggers can have panels, it’d be great!

      I don’t know that a movie will ever really capture it, no. I think that’s the downside of such a “shocking” plot element within the bodice-ripper-esque rest of the story. If the proper attention is paid to the abuse and the neglect and the toll it all takes on the kids and what it leads them to, then it’s so serious that the soapier elements seem cheap? But if you keep it soapy with a “and then the siblings do it!” twist, it gets campy, which is how we’re usually left. Sometimes things just work best as books, honestly.

      But I am grateful for the chance to screen cap Heather Graham’s faces, though, believe you me.

  10. OMG, it’s a wonder that they don’t already have an AndrewsCon! (That actually doesn’t sound like a totally improbable thing). I vote for a Kickstarter project to build a Foxworth Hall theme park in Virginia. Complete with concession stands that sells powdered sugared donuts. The question is whether we are gracious enough to also offer sugar cookies for the devotees of the Jeffrey Bloom movie…

    But you’re totally right about the book – the reason it’s good is because it stands alone in its weird stylistic vacuum – though I still think a weird enough director would be able pull it off in a quirky way… As for Heather Graham…she wouldn’t be on the short list for that casting. Sorry, what would you do for screencaps… Well I guess POTW will be here in no time so you’ll still get your fix! Can’t wait to have you break it down. That batty movie’s going to be awesome, as long as they don’t glue mustaches onto the entire male cast.

    xoxo 🙂

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