Friday, May 15, 2015

Worth Mentioning - Everything I Know About Pain

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody and Priscilla find out what happened in the aftermath of Flowers in the Attic.


Author V.C. Andrews' first novel, Flowers in the Attic, was very open-ended. The last line hinted that there would be more to the story of the Dollanganger children who were locked in the attic of Foxworth Hall, their mother's childhood home, while their mom went on with her life after the death the children's father. The villains of the story, the mom Corrine and her mother Olivia, didn't get any sort of comeuppance, even though the events made the reader anxious to see the women pay for their crimes. Corrine even started poisoning the children after they had spent years locked away. She couldn't just get away with that.

So it's no surprise that Andrews wrote a sequel that was in bookstores soon after her top-selling debut. The time between the release of Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind may have even been as short as four months.

After the cinematic adaptation of Flowers came out in 1987, even though Corrine had gotten a very definitive comeuppance in that version of the story, there was some consideration given to adapting Petals for a sequel. Kristy Swanson and Louise Fletcher were set to reprise their roles as primary protagonist Cathy and wicked grandmother Olivia respectively, but the project never got beyond the scripting stage. Having read a draft of the screenplay, Swanson dismissed the story as a sexfest.

When the television station Lifetime acquired the rights to make the 2014 TV movie adaptation of Flowers in the Attic, they did so with the hopes of being able to bring the whole Dollanganger story to the screen. A couple days before Flowers made its broadcast premiere, it was announced that an adaptation of Petals was already in the works. Flowers aired, it was a hit, and four months later Petals was ready for primetime as well.

Like Flowers in the Attic 2014, Petals on the Wind was the product of a female writer and a female director. Screenwriter Kayla Alpert returned to handle the adaptation of the sequel novel, while Blue Car director Karen Moncrieff took over for Deborah Chow at the helm.

In the novel, the story of Petals on the Wind begins immediately after the ending of Flowers and then takes place over a span of about fifteen years. The TV movie adaptation starts off ten years after the surviving children's escape from their three years of imprisonment in the attic. Because of the time jump, the roles of the Dollanganger children were recast. Replacing Kiernan Shipka in the role of Cathy is Rose McIver, Wyatt Nash takes over from Mason Dye as Christopher, and as little Carrie, who entered the attic at the age of four and whose growth was stunted because of it, is five foot tall actress Bailey Buntain.

Open on: South Carolina, 1970. Cathy and Christopher, now in their mid-to-late twenties, and Carrie, now around seventeen or eighteen, are attending the funeral of the man who took them in after their ordeal, Dr. Paul Sheffield.

I have read Flowers in the Attic a few times, but I haven't read any V.C. Andrews novels beyond that. I tried to start Petals on the Wind once, but couldn't get into it. It was too different, there were too many characters and too much going on. However, I do know that, while Alpert's adaptation of Flowers was quite faithful to Andrews' prose, she has already made a substantial departure from the Petals novel with this opening scene. Paul Sheffield was a character throughout the book and only died in the last pages.

Delivering a eulogy, Cathy fills viewers in on the section of story that was cut to make the time jump: on the run from Foxworth Hall, the children ran into hardship on the road. Seeing they were in trouble, Sheffield's maid Henny (took them to the doctor. Sheffield adopted them and raised them as his own, giving them shelter and making sure they went to the best schools.

Part of what skipping that section of the book spares us from are the scenes where a fifteen-year-old Cathy tried her best to seduce her forty-year-old foster father.

I didn't even know about this, and in the movie the relationship between Paul and the Dollangangers seems to be very sweet and innocent. I think this was the right move.

Cathy has kept track of Corrine over the years; their mother is the socialite wife of prominent attorney Bart Winslow in Virginia. (Heather Graham and Dylan Bruce both reprise their roles.) Cathy even has Corrine's phone number, and this jarring event in her life inspires her to give her mom a call. Corrine responds to the sound of her daughter's voice by hanging up on her.

I do not understand why Cathy would want to reach out to her mother. That monster did unspeakable things to them, I'd want to not hear from or about her ever again.

Also reprising her role from Flowers is Ellen Burstyn as Olivia Foxworth, who has suffered a severe stroke that has left her bedridden in Foxworth Hall, which has fallen into disrepair. The old woman tries to convince her nurse that Corrine poisoned her own children, but this is brushed off as being caused by stroke-induced memory loss and hallucinations.

Olivia was Corrine's cruel accomplice, calling the children "the devil's spawn" when they were kept away in the attic, although she was never fully on board with the poisoning. Now she's completely against what Corrine did, telling her daughter she'll be going to Hell for it. She's kind of a conflicted lady.

Now that Olivia knows the end is near, she's starting to repent, but she's not quite there yet.

Corrine appears to have had some kind of psychological issues over the years that Bart has seen her through and she now takes medication for. Unnerved by the reminders of her past, she decides to try to wipe out her history by renovating Foxworth Hall. Gutting it, no expense spared. She wants to "drive out the darkness and bring in the light".

I wouldn't want to be Corrine's interior designer. She is a nightmare and has crazy plans for the renovations.

Since Olivia refuses to go to a nursing home, Corrine will just renovate around her. One area that is off limits to the contractors is the attic. No one is to go in there. Corrine wants the door removed and plastered over. It is to be like the attic doesn't even exist.

In the time between movies, Cathy and Christopher have both pursued their dream careers. Cathy is a ballerina and Christopher is in the final stages of med school.

During ballet practice one day, the son of Cathy's teacher walks in - Will Kemp as Julian Marquet, who lives in New York and dances with what he calls the best ballet company in the city. His mother says it's the second best. Cathy takes an instant interest in him, which he reciprocates.

Julian seems like a self-centered douche right from the start, then he does one sweet thing for Cathy and pretty much wins her over.

Julian takes Cathy on a date, and over drinks (illegal moonshine), her asks her to move to New York with him and join the dance company. He has seen how she strives for perfection, dancing until her feet are bloody, he can tell she has something to prove and believes she has what it takes to be successful.

Julian drops Cathy off at home at 2am and gives her a kiss goodnight. As she undresses for bed, Christopher barges in and confronts her for being out late with Julian, telling her she doesn't need to give herself to the first guy who looks her way. During their conversation, it becomes very obvious that Christopher still loves her in a more-than-brotherly way from their time stuck in the attic together. He thinks about what they did all the time... And Cathy admits that she does, too. The siblings give in to ten years of pent-up desire.

It's so much passion. I wonder how they were able to stay away from each other for ten years, and what changed now.

Afterward, Cathy tells Christopher that she's going away to New York. Christopher wants to be in a relationship with her, she is the only person he'll ever love. But it isn't right, she says she needs to leave so he can have a normal life. They've already been punished for the sin of incest - Cathy became pregnant from the time in the attic, but later suffered a miscarriage. Eavesdropping from the hall, Carrie hears all of this.

I feel bad for all of them, obviously, but Carrie has it worse now. She's starting to figure things out, and knowing what goes on between her two siblings only makes her feel even more alone. No parents, her twin is gone, and Christopher and Cathy have their own special relationship going. Poor Carrie.

When Julian returns to New York, he takes Cathy with him. She has barely entered his shabby apartment when he starts making the moves on her. As he seduces her, he demands that she tell him she belongs him. She does.

I don't buy it for a second. Neither does Julian.

Cathy and Julian's relationship is very unhealthy. He accuses her of being emotionally distant, but he's quick tempered, puts her down, gets jealous over nothing while taking other girls out for moonshine on the side, and eventually even gets physically abusive. He tells her that if any man gets between them, even her brother, he'll kill the man and her.

Truth is, Cathy barely knew Julian before they moved in together. She was just so desperate to escape the situation with Christopher, that she jumps into another less than ideal relationship without giving it much thought.

Immediately after Julian has beaten her, Cathy goes home to South Carolina for Christopher's graduation. There, she meets Christopher's girlfriend Sarah Reeves, a southern belle who works in the hospital gift shop and is the daughter of the head doctor. She is Christopher's attempt to get a life together in Cathy's absence, and she doesn't mind that he talks about Cathy all the time. She thinks it's sweet, how much he loves his sister.

Although she considers not returning to New York, Cathy does. She's greeted by a Julian with a very different attitude. He breaks down in tears as he asks for her forgiveness, saying he'll do anything for her. He blames the moonshine for what happened, saying he's a bastard when he drinks.

Only when he drinks, huh?

Typical. I think he's just a bastard in general.

In the dance company, Cathy had been pursuing the role of Juliet in a presentation of Romeo & Juliet in which Julian will be Romeo, but she lost out on it. To win back her love, Julian smashes a glass bottle and pours the shards into the Juliet dancer's shoes. When the woman puts the shoes on, her feet are shredded... and Cathy becomes Juliet.

How romantic! Not.

You'd think the woman would be able to tell that there was something inside her ballet flats before she puts them on.

Meanwhile, the effects their time in the attic had on Carrie are much deeper than her stunted growth. She's fragile, she always carries around a doll Corrine gave her, and she's bullied at school because of her size and the doll. When her unknowing tormentors tease her with a mother reference, Carrie lashes out at them. Carrie even seems envious of how abnormally close Christopher is to Cathy. When Christopher walks in on her while she's changing clothes -

This guy has a really bad habit of doing that.

- she stops him from walking out. She asks him if he thinks she's pretty, and if she's pretty in a different way than Cathy. She says she knows he likes Cathy the best. He responds, "I like both of my sisters the same."

Oh my, I hope not.

The proper answer, and yet a very creepy one in this case.

Carrie's issues at school come to a head when the bullies steal her doll. Her search for the doll leads her to a closet, where the doll is found hanging from a noose. The bullies encourage Carrie to hang herself, too. Then they lock her inside the small room.

Like I said, I really feel for Carrie. She's a teenager with an extremely troubled past, she's too small for her age, and pretty much on her own. Add mean bully girls to it and... wow.

Carrie goes to stay with Cathy and Julian in New York as the opening night of Romeo & Juliet nears. Christopher has plenty of time to notify Sarah of when opening night will be, but still springs the news that he's going to New York to see it on her at the last minute, skipping plans she had for them and going on his own.

Poor Sarah. She loves ballerinas, she probably would have liked to see the show.

Sarah is so nice it gets annoying at times.

Backstage on opening night, Christopher catches Julian getting a bit too touchy feely with Carrie. Cathy enters the room seconds later and Carrie and Julian both deny that anything was going on, but Christopher knows what he saw. He and Julian have a physical altercation that ends with Julian leaving the building.

As Julian speeds away from the theatre with Cathy in the passenger seat of his car, he accuses her of being in love with her brother. She responds by calling him a bastard, and giving him some news: she is pregnant with his child.

Julian barely has time to react to this when a truck plows into the side of the car as it passes through an intersection.

The moment of impact is shot from Cathy's perspective, looking at Julian as the truck comes up behind him and smashes into his door. This sort of shot, with the face of an actor in the same image as a vehicle slamming into their door with great force, was really cool when they first started doing it fifteen years ago or so, but now it's getting played out. It feels like nearly every car crash is shot this way these days. 

Jump ahead ten months. Julian was killed in the accident. Cathy has moved back to South Carolina, become a ballet teacher, and given birth to Julian's son. In honor of Julian and her little brother Cory, Carrie's twin who died in the attic from eating donuts Corrine coated with rat poison, Cathy has named the child Jory.

Carrie joined a church choir when she returned to South Carolina, which brings her into contact with a young minister named Alex. Carrie and Alex have a whirlwind romance, and Alex proposes to her after just a few months.

Alex is really nice, but he's so intense that it's almost creepy sometimes.

During her time in the attic, it was beat into Carrie's mind that she's evil, the devil's spawn. Facing life with a man of God, she begins to wonder if that's true. She admits to Cathy that Christopher was telling the truth about her and Julian. He touched her and she liked it. She wanted it to happen. Cathy advises her to stop questioning herself, to forget what has happened and what they were told, forget Corrine, and just move on with Alex.

Carrie doesn't take her sister's advice. She seeks Corrine out, finding her at a party and approaching her to hand-deliver a wedding invitation. She tells her "mama" it would mean the world to her if she would come to the wedding. Corrine responds, "You must be mistaking me for someone else. I don't have a daughter." Then walks off.

Again, I cannot understand why any of them would want anything to do with Corrine.

That's the last straw for Carrie. She goes home, bakes a batch of donuts, powders them with rat poison, and commits suicide. In the trash, Cathy finds a stack of letters Carrie had sent to Corrine over the years that were all returned unopened.

It was too much for Carrie. It's very sad that when she's about to really start living her life, everything seems to be too overwhelming and she feels she has to take her own life.

Corrine didn't directly kill Carrie with the poison like she did Cory, but Cathy considers her to be just as responsible for the death. She wants to get revenge, to make Corrine hurt the way she hurt her children.

It's about time! I would have been out for revenge as soon as I escaped the attic. Corrine and Olivia should have been put in prison way back then. The movie doesn't explain why the children never had them arrested. In the book it's because they didn't want to risk being split up in foster homes, but they already had a caregiver. It doesn't make much sense.

I couldn't agree more. My thoughts exactly.

Cathy's revenge starts with a visit to the law office of Bart Winslow. Officially there to revise the family's trust after the death of Carrie, she actually sets out to seduce him, especially after she gleans the information that not having children with his wife (Corrine said she was unable to) is one of the greatest regrets of his life.

Cathy is easily able to get Bart to stop by the place she's renting in Virginia for a personal conversation over drinks by the fireplace. Very quickly, they're having an affair. One which Bart isn't very good at hiding - he says he has to go to work on a Sunday for an important case that will keep him at the office until late, but then leaves his briefcase behind at home.

Around the time when Bart admits to Cathy that he's falling in love with her, she's having morning sickness and taking a pregnancy test.

Christopher wants nothing to do with whatever Cathy's revenge entails. He puts his focus elsewhere. At the urging of Sarah's father, he gets engaged to Sarah, who asks Cathy to be her maid of honor.

The night before the wedding, Cathy returns to South Carolina to find Christopher alone, drinking whiskey. She assures him that Sarah adores him and will be a wonderful wife and mother, and he agrees. The problem is, Sarah isn't Cathy. All he wants is Cathy. She pleads with him to marry Sarah and be happy, but the siblings can't help but share some passionate kisses.

Sarah walks in on them kissing.

Sarah leaves Christopher. Her father fires him from his job at the hospital. Word spreads around. Henny tells them that God will forgive them, but Cathy and Christopher's public image is still ruined. Christopher knows they have to give up on South Carolina, and asks Cathy to move to California with him, where they can start a new life where no one knows them. They can be a couple and raise Jory together.

Cathy loves Christopher, but she can't just run off with him. She's pregnant with Bart's child and needs to finish her mission of revenge.

Cathy and Christopher return to Foxworth Hall. While looking around the newly renovated mansion, Cathy hears Olivia calling out for her nurse and goes into the bedroom to confront the old woman. Olivia defends the way she treated the children as "doing God's work" and says Cory was filth that shouldn't have been born. She has no sympathy for the children being locked in the attic, because she has felt trapped in this place and in the Foxworth family for sixty years.

Corrine will be hosting a Christmas party at Foxworth Hall and sees it as a major event. As of this celebration, all past sins will be left behind. She's going to put Olivia into a nursing home the next day, take over the mansion, and move forward. Happily ever after.

That happily ever after includes Bart, so as he shaves while getting ready for the party, Corrine goes into the bathroom to talk to him about their marriage. She knows she has neglected him and put the renovation before him, but from now on he'll have her undivided attention. Then she gets angry. She knows he's been seeing someone else, but that is to end, and they'll never speak about it again.

Giving someone a shaving cream handjob while threatening them is an interesting approach.

Hrm. I wouldn't exactly call it interesting. And Corrine has dead eyes while she does it. If I were a guy, I don't think I'd be able to look at shaving cream the same ever again.

Twelve years after hiding in a liquor cabinet to watch a Foxworth Hall Christmas party, Cathy and Christopher attend another one, this time out in the open. Cathy makes a toast that draws everyone's attention to her, and she tells Corrine's guests all about the woman's secret children and what was done to them, a story Olivia confirms. Cathy also announces that she is pregnant and Bart is the father.

The guests leave as Corrine starts to crumble. She just lost her chance to put everything behind her. She argues with her mother about what they did to the children.

Again, Olivia's perspective is all over the place. She says Corrine was evil for what she did, and yet still defends her decision to put the kids in the attic.

I think that Olivia wanted to show some regret, but she's still too evil to do it. Part of her wants to do the right thing, but the dark side takes over and keeps it from really happening.

Olivia has a present for Corrine. A trunk filled with souvenirs from the attic. Among them, the skeleton of Cory. The sight of this causes Corrine to completely lose her mind.

So much so that she has a crazy Norma Bates moment with Christopher.

So they've just been storing the little boy's corpse in the house for over a decade instead of burying him. It would have been so easy to send these women to prison, if only the children had gone to the police.

How did it not smell?

Corrine sets fire to her mother's bedroom and soon the whole mansion is going up in flames. Christopher manages to get Cathy and Corrine out of the house, but when Bart goes to Olivia's room to try to save her, he never returns.

Six years later, Corrine is locked away in a mental institution and Cathy and Christopher Dollanganger are living in California as a couple, raising Cathy's two sons together. The kids call them mom and dad.

I really don't envy screenwriter Kayla Alpert on this one. There's so much going on with so many people over such a period of time, trying to figure out how to adapt the novel must have seemed like an impossible task. Television was definitely the right venue for this story, but I'm not sure a time constrained movie was. 

This movie could've easily been two movies, or a two-part one, with everything that's going on. I would have like seeing more of the story told, but it didn't exactly hurt it too much. Petals on the Wind is a good TV movie.

Things really seemed rushed at times, especially at the ending, but throughout plotlines make large progressions over just a couple scenes. One quick example is Carrie's relationship with Alex. He asks her out in one scene, in the next scene Christopher tells Sarah that he had a brother named Cory, and the next scene after that Alex is proposing to Carrie after a few months of dating. It's kind of crazy.

Again, it doesn't exactly hurt the movie. But it is probably my least favorite aspect of it... if they had more time to properly tell the story, or if it was told in two or more parts, it could've been even better.

A mini-series might have worked better, but if Lifetime really wanted to go all-out with their V.C. Andrews adaptations, there's enough material here to make a series out of. The events of Petals on the Wind could have easily been stretched out into at least a season of a show.

A series could've worked, too.

The cast does solid work for the most part. Rose McIver is good in the lead role of Cathy, and even resembles Heather Graham in some shots. Bailey Buntain gets across the fragility of issue-plagued Carrie, a tragic character. Of the recasts, I'd say Wyatt Nash is the weakest link, his performance as Christopher is rather wooden.

Rose McIver is a bit nasal every now and then, but I like her performance overall, and she definitely looks like Heather Graham. I do like the cast, and I agree that Wyatt Nash is the weakest.

Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn are both quite nutty as Corrine and Olivia.

Olivia is even less scary and more fragile in this one, and Corrine is creepier for sure. The scene with Bart in the bathroom is pretty terrifying. Heather Graham did a decent job.

Of the newcomers, I'd say Will Kemp's Julian Marquet was the standout of the bunch. His character is a total sleaze, but Kemp does sleazy well and his antics are at the center of a good portion of the movie.

Will Kemp is great. He's my second favorite. 

I think Bailey Buntain gives the strongest performance. I genuinely felt bad for Carrie during the movie, and then really sad when she killed herself. It's kind of a miserable character, and Bailey did a great job portraying it.

The biggest issue with Petals on the Wind is that it could have used a lot more time to tell its story. Still, I feel that it works well enough for what it is, a jam-packed soap opera-esque drama. It's an enjoyable way to spend 88 minutes.

I've only seen Petals on the Wind twice and it didn't let me down. I think it was a good way to follow Flowers in the Attic, and it finally gave Olivia and Corrine a better fitting ending. I really like the score and the tone of the movie. Directing isn't bad, either. I definitely see myself watching this movie more times in the future.

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