Friday, January 24, 2014

Flowers in the Attic and Lifetime Movies

I was going to write a post on how I'm incredibly wasteful when it comes to water but I didn't think I could drag that out beyond a paragraph and my stomach is in knots after ingesting a bit of raw egg this morning. Just in case you were wondering, I would like to state for the record that I did not cook this fried egg which turned out to be raw. It was served to me. Anyway, back to Flowers in the Attic.

I can't remember if they used to show the old movie on HBO (back when I had HBO) or if it was on a regular cable channel but I remember catching snippets of it when I was in high school or middle school. I don't think I ever saw the whole movie but I did read the wikipedia entries for all of the books in the series which was basically all of the background I had going into this new Lifetime movie. I checked Flowers in the Attic out of the library once but as I've said, I have learned to stop reading books I'm not interested in. I think that was during a period when I would put books on hold at the library and then get 10 at a time because I don't remember even reading a chapter of that book. I probably didn't read a full chapter. I probably looked at my pile of Salem witchtrials historical fiction, feminist young adult fairytale retellings, and romance novels (given my knowledge of the kind of things I was reading at that time) and chose to read another book instead of this salacious novel I was mildly curious about.

So, back to the Lifetime movie. I have a real gift for getting off topic. I found it quite boring. Like the version of The Sound of Music on NBC, no one cares what I think because it did great in the ratings so as far as I know, they're moving ahead with a sequel. On the one hand, I think they could have used more time to develop the story and the characters. On the other hand, they kind of wasted the time they had and I don't think I could have sat through a television series or a miniseries if that was going to be the level of acting and dialogue through the whole thing. The script was kind of painful. As I've said, I haven't read the book so I don't know if the dialogue was lifted straight from the book but it was heavy on the exposition and awkwardness. Yet instead of playing into the feeling that "there is clearly something wrong with people who talk like this" with camp and crazy eyes, the actors seemed determined to be as naturalistic and flat as humanly possible. There were very few moments with genuine emotion, or even some emotion in the entire film. I thought the grandmother did the best job. Cathy had a handful of moments because the amount of time she spent on screen demanded that she show emotion at least once or twice but she seemed determined to talk in this flat monotone without any inflection for most of the time and to not show any emotional reactions to accompany the words coming out of her mouth. While I dislike what I call "play" acting which feels very artificial outside of any other medium than a play, I found myself missing the style of acting of Joan Crawford or Katharine Hepburn and many of their contemporaries. There used to be a crop of actresses who were so captivating to watch because of all their little microexpressions. It was as if they were acting every single line of dialogue. And yes, occasionally there were crazy eyes.

It wasn't an awful movie. I've certainly seen movies that were worse, especially TV movies from Lifetime or ABCFamily or Fox Family or whatever it used to be called. But it just felt so flat. At least there was some nice singing in The Sound of Music even if the production had some issues. But with Flowers in the Attic, it was a struggle to find something interesting. The movie was not filmed in an interesting way. There were boring tracking shots and things that probably could have been filmed in a more compelling way. The acting was flat. It might have helped if Cathy had been just a touch more expressive in the beginning so at least there was some development for her becoming the shut off narrator. Instead, she was just an automaton who could not process human emotion except in these occasional moments when she mimicked what she'd seen real people do. And Heather Graham really should have committed to the crazy. She came the closest in the scene after the party but it would have been nice to see her really go for it. She always felt restrained. She was restrained in the weird moment at the kitchen table where they talked about mothers. She was restrained in the part of the flighty and vapid but seemingly loving mother. And she was restrained when she finally had to play crazy, greedy, and manipulative. With Cathy and Corinne falling so flat it left nothing for you to hang onto in a film that rushed through the plot at such a breakneck speed that there were no emotional stakes and it was like someone reading you the wikipedia entry for two hours.

So, anyway, Lifetime has made a Lizzie Borden movie with Christina Ricci. I've set the DVR to record it but I don't really have the nerves for horror so I may not make it through unless it's campy enough to not be frightening. 

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