In case you haven't noticed, I've been making a big deal about the Petals on the Wind adaptation for a few days now. Last night it finally aired. So how does this long-awaited movie match up to its book?
Not very well. In case you weren't enjoying my live Twitter session last night while the movie was on, I ought to warn you: I'm pretty angry about the adaptation.
The movie begins 10 years after the events of Flowers in the Attic, which is already wrong. The book actually begins right where Flowers left off. Seriously, the reader misses a few hours (at best) of Cathy's life. Cathy is 15 when she leaves the attic.
This means that in the advanced timeline, Cathy is already 25. And in the movie, Paul Sheffield is dead. This is an insult to the fans, because Paul figures prominently in Cathy's adult life. She marries him, after all. As a girl just meeting Paul, Cathy sets out to seduce him almost immediately. She's already all messed up, and desperate to explore her femininity with someone who isn't related to her. So her relationship with Paul is very complex, and affects many other relationships. To cut him out is an injustice.
That's not even the worst of it. The adaptation further insults the reader with the character of Henny Beech, Henrietta. She can't talk. She never talks. In the movie, she speaks. It's outrageous.
The book is told exclusively from Cathy's point of view. However, scenes are added in the movie that don't include her. Almost every scene featuring Corinne (Heather Graham) was wholly fabricated, as were all the scenes in which Chris appeared that did not also feature Cathy. To that end, Chris was given an entire girlfriend out of nowhere who was in most of the movie. How infuriating! In the books, Chris never loves anyone but Cathy. He's incapable of it. He's incapable of trusting any woman other than Cathy, ever. That's how broken Chris is. He's optimistic and smiling all the time, but inside he's so very broken he can never love someone other than his sister. Cathy never sees Chris with a date, not in her entire life. So for Lifetime to change this for the movie is truly bad storytelling, to put it mildly.
Chris's character is radically altered by this, but he's not the only one to undergo a change. Cathy is also changed. Near the top of the movie she makes a simpering call to Corinne, which Cathy did not do and would not have done. Cathy was angry at Corinne and began messing with her almost at once, sending hateful things in the mail. Paul petitioned the court for custody of the three attic mice, and Corinne didn't even show up to court. This made Cathy hate her even more. Cathy began sleeping with Paul when she was about 16 in the book, and met Julian around this time as well. She knew him until she turned 18, and he convinced her to go to New York.
In the movie, Cathy meets Julian one day while at ballet class (ballet class, and she's 25! How silly) and runs off to New York with him two minutes later. That didn't happen. Julian spends a great deal of time wooing and convincing Cathy before she leaves, and she was in a relationship with Paul at that point. In the film, Cathy and Julian live together. In the book, Cathy is rooming with two other ballerinas in Madame Z's ballet company. Madame Z somehow became a man in the movie.
Cathy and Julian don't wed in the movie, which is incorrect. Julian also didn't break Cathy's toes in the film, something that happened in the book that ended her career as a prima ballerina. Cathy never really achieves success as a ballerina in the movie, but we all know that is incorrect. Cathy is driven by revenge in the book, and her career is part of that revenge. She is determined to become a ballerina and dance on the biggest stages, to show Corinne Foxworth who she is.
Julian is abusive in both the book and the movie, but Cathy's reactions are different. In the book she often stood up to Julian, pushing him to further extremes. In the movie she is weak and timid with him. Cathy defies Julian in the book. This is why he eventually drops her hard enough to break her toes. There's also no mention of Cathy's trick knee in the movie, something that crops up in the book several times. Cathy first injured that knee in the attic.
Julian dies abruptly in the movie, and in the wrong way. It's significant that in the book Julian doesn't die in the car accident. He's injured, and paralyzed. It's when Julian learns that he's paralyzed that he commits suicide, because he will never dance again. He commits suicide knowing that Cathy is pregnant with his child. It's very significant because of the events that unfold in Seeds of Yesterday, so Lifetime clearly plans to mess that book up as well. Cathy goes back to South Carolina, and Paul, to have the baby in the book and then moves to Virginia for her revenge.
In the movie, all of this is altered. Instead of going away to school, Chris is at home (at Paul Sheffield's home). Carrie likewise doesn't go away to school. Her experiences aren't altered greatly for the movie, but there are some differences. I don't even have time to address all of them, because that's how bad Lifetime was at adapting this book.
Cathy does finally get mad and set forth on her revenge in the movie, but things are advanced so greatly Jory is still a tiny baby. It's J for Julian and the rest for Cory, by the way. The movie doesn't explain this. His full name is Jory Janus Marquet, because like I said his parents were married. In reading comments on Twitter, it seems the movie doesn't make it clear enough that Jory is Julian's son. In the book it's very clear. Jory looks just like Julian, and practically does a pirouette coming out of the womb.
As in the book, Cathy in the movie seduces Bart Winslow (who didn't have a mustache for the movie, which is a big wrong). Jory is all but completely absent, and remains a baby the entire time. By the time Cathy gets around to seducing Bart, Jory is a toddler and already learning ballet.
The Christmas party confrontation is changed around quite a bit. For starters, Lifetime engaged in a subplot with Corinne where she renovated Foxworth Hall. It didn't happen, and she didn't shut off the attic as happens in the movie. Actually, Cathy goes back to the attic the night of the party and looks around. It's a very poignant scene. Cathy also replicates the famous green dress Corinne wore the night that Cathy and Chris watched the Christmas party during their time in the attic. It's an important dress in Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind, and there was absolutely no reason for it to be changed but Lifetime did it anyway.
Cathy makes a scene on the stairs like she's supposed to, but Bart doesn't cut the scene short and move it as he does in the book. Instead they all have it out right in front of the party, which is ridiculous. The end of the movie is changed around, because in the book Chris shows up to get Cathy only because Paul has suffered a heart attack. He never supported her thirst for revenge to begin with. Upon seeing him, Corinne begins to rant and scream and she runs off. This leaves Cathy, Chris, Bart and Olivia in the library. Bart and Cathy make plans to be together, and Chris is trying to get Cathy to leave so they can go to Paul's bedside. But then the fire starts, originating in the attic I might add. The reader is left to believe the fire is set by Corinne. In the movie, we see it happen as Corinne sets fire to her own mother. There's also a gruesome moment in which Chris discovers Cory's body that never happened in the book. Cathy discovers the body in the book, though she's not completely sure that it's Cory.
The movie ends with Cathy and Chris living in California as the Dollangangers, which is not correct. They used Sheffield, and Chris practiced medicine. This is inexplicably changed in the movie because Chris's finance (who didn't exist in the book) discovers he and Cathy passionately kissing and everyone finds out about them. That didn't happen. Corinne Foxworth is left screaming in an institution, totally gone. That did happen in the book, and Chris visited her over the years.
Lifetime changed almost everything that they could change, and I'm disappointed. I thought they did a fair job with Flowers in the Attic, so I had high hopes. But so much was shifted and so many details changed, so much nonsensical story added, that I just feel really let down. I have no hope that the planned adaptations of If There Be Thorns and Seeds of Yesterday will be at all worth watching, and forget about My Sweet Audrina. Lifetime really could have done a much better job. This movie isn't any good if you're a big fan of the book...it's just really upsetting.