Monthly Archives: January 2014

Flowers in the Attic: Does it bloom or die?

Flowers in the Attic is a novel by V.C. Andrews, from 1979. It tells the story of Cathy, a young woman who along with her three siblings, get locked away in an Attic. The novel has been adapted twice now: once in 1987 and recently, in 2014, as a lifetime movie.

From this point on, I use the term ‘film’ instead of ‘movie.’ 

When I heard that Lifetime was doing Flowers in the Attic, something went off in my brain. It seemed familiar, but I couldn’t exactly recall. Then, I remembered, it was a novel that had been read by many of my friends. My friends, which, were in the Honors English Courses. So, having not read the novel, I sat down to see Lifetime’s adaptation knowing only the bare minimum: children are locked away and have an abusive grandmother.

Of course, as I watched the film, I learned there was a whole lot more to this story. And, by chance you don’t know— the children are left in the attic by their mother, who is trying to win back the love of her father, to inherit the family fortune. Through  complicated plot, you learn the children must be kept secret, and thus, are essentially left in the attic to die. Cathy and her older brother begin to experience puberty in the attic, and as there is no one else, they engage in intercourse.

Lifetime Films are a mixed bag: Sometimes they are good, sometimes awful and sometimes they are in the middle. Having not read the novel or seen the 1987 adaptation before I watched this version, my viewing experience was without former interpretations of the material.  As its own entity, I personally would say this film was good, overall.

The film’s strongest asset is Kiernan Shipka, the 14 year old portraying Cathy.The young woman gives an award winning performance, never once overacting or crying so annoyingy, like so many actresses in a lifetime production. Based on her alone, I’d recommend this film. She keeps you engaged and she makes you care about Cathy, which of course, is very important.


Cathy as she has a heart-to-heart with her father.

The mother is played by Heather Graham. Her performance is difficult to describe. On one hand, there are shades of the typical “can’t act” actress you find in these movies. But, on the other, she somehow shines when it counts. Graham tends to act like a spoiled college girl, very bubbly and excited. This manner is a conundrum, because the mother IS spoiled, yet the acting can sometimes come off as rehearsed. But, all in all, she gets the job done.


‘The Mother’, a woman who in fact doesn’t act like one at all.

Cathy’s older brother, Christopher, is played by Mason Dye. At first glance, one assumes he’s there only to get the girls screaming and licking their television screens. Like Heather Graham, Dye’s performance waxes and wains, from cringe-worthy one liners to fairly good interactions. Dye’s so-so acting often appears when he works with Heather Gram. But, it is in his scenes with Kiernan Shipka, where the young man gets a passing grade and is believable. One might assume that Shipka was easy to work off of. Dyes’ especially good with facial expressions— saying so much without speaking a word.


Christopher, torn between trusting his mother or his sister.

Lastly, there’s Ellen Burstyn, as the vicious Grandmother. There’s not much to say about her. She nails her part perfectly and aside from a few so-so written words, acts her way through it with energy and power.


Nothing’s worse than a wicked grandmother.

After my viewing of the film, I researched the novel and the other adaptation, to see how they all compare. (From a story standpoint.) The most drastic change from novel to the Lifetime Film is the fact that in the novel, Cathy is raped by her brother. In the film, their love making is  consensual. I think this change is acceptable and allows the audience to love Christopher through and through.

If you’re wondering if the Lifetime Film is better than the 1987 version, I have your answer. The Lifetime film is better. The 1987 version does have some nice moments, but generally suffers from a dated, 80s flare that it can’t escape. Most importantly, in the 1987 version, the story is rushed, almost as though the film was sped up. The 1987 film works more like an essay with certain points to hit, while the Lifetime version is allowed to ebb and flow. You’ll also be interested in knowing that in the 1987 version, Cathy and Christopher developing feelings for another is absent entirely. This omission changes the entire tone of the story and makes it almost laughable.

Without spoiling both films, it should be noted they have different finales. Both finales serve to bring revenge to the villains in the story, but in vastly different ways. I would encourage to view the 1987 version just to see this difference. Both films also have a few other special gems, regarding how the story is told. But these are both better to be experienced without knowing.


The original Flowers in the Attic, 1987.

But, when it’s all said and done, I say Lifetime did a fair job of bringing the novel to life. The ratings were extremely good, and plans to follow with a sequel are in motion.

You can watch the Lifetime Film here:  LIFETIME VERSION 

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The Most Talented People I Have Ever Known

I assure you, acting talent is something you are born with. It can be improved upon, but it can not be learned without the initial talent itself.

 Actors are highly regarded in our society. Some of them deserve this admiration: Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis… some actors truly catch your attention. And while it may be nice to meet these people  from Hollywood— even talk to them just for a minute, I want to talk to you about some actors I know personally. They may not be famous yet, but they will be. And I’ll get to say, “I knew them when…”

In no particular Order—

Brendan McCay:


I met Brendan during play auditions during college in 2007. I was beyond nervous and he offered words of encouragement. I first saw Brendan act in 2009, where he played Jack, in The Importance of Being Earnest. It’s here where I learned the young man has a knack for being extremely expressive with his face, is excellent at comedic timing, and can do wonders with his voice. We got to work together in 2010 for a student directed one-act play.  A Cold Day in Hell, in which Brendan played Steven, a man who dies and is shocked to learn he’s gone to ‘the bad place.’ This experience was especially enjoyable, because I felt as though I was working with one of the greats. After college, Brendan took to working with an improv troupe. I’ve seen him perform three times and it’s always a barrel of laughs. The last time I saw him perform, some family came along. I was worried they would be hard to please, but in the end, they were raving at how he had talent and was ‘the best one up there.’

 Brendan now lives in L.A, living the dream. I know it’s only a matter of time before he ends up in a comedy pilot or on SNL.

Brendan as Jack in 'Earnest.'

Brendan as Jack in ‘Earnest.’

See a bit of Brendan’s talent in his acting reel:

JJ Hansen: 


JJ and I went to high school together. He was a few years younger than me, so I didn’t get to see him perform until much later. I saw JJ in two separate shows where he essentially mimed — making the audience laugh without speaking. His talent will remind you of Charlie Chaplin or one of the three stooges. His talent is one you can’t exactly describe. But, his gift is the ability to make you laugh. Being funny isn’t an easy thing. Take away speech and it’s even harder. But JJ succeeds.

 A few years later, I saw JJ perform in a student- written work at his college. The story was a series of vignettes. But one stood out in my mind. Something I truly had never seen on stage before. JJ portrayed a Rooster in this scene. There’s this running joke that once actors get into a serious school, their first acting exercise is to pretend to be a an inanimate object or a strange animal. And here was JJ, as a rooster. While this might have been daunting for most people, JJ embraced the role. The audience was in stitches. It’s one of those things you wish you had on video because it was so great. Physical comedy came into play and JJ is a master at that.

 A few years ago, JJ landed a spot in a commercial, which you can see here:

 Matthew Cordon:


Have you heard of a triple threat? A triple threat is a term given to an actor who can act, sing and dance. Not every actor can do all three. But if you are a lucky one, you are basically set. Matthew is a triple threat and a joy to see perform. He was the brother to one of my friend’s in high school. I remember visiting said friend and Matthew was playing the piano and singing as well. I knew then, that this young man was one to watch.

 Matthew and I always joked that I never got to see him perform. I’d always hear stories from his brother, that he had just landed the lead in some musical downtown. It wasn’t until 2009, when I visited my old high school and got to see Matthew portray Dickon in The Secret Garden. It was here I finally got to see Matthew show off his talent. The young man is a gifted tenor, exquisite dancer, and can be dramatic in a way that feels sincere. I saw him perform once more in a professional production of Spring Awakening, playing the part of Mortitz. Here, Matthew’s vocal performance was in high gear, particularly during the number, “Don’t Do Sadness.”

 Matthew is one of those actors who would be brilliant for Broadway, and I wish him the best. I know he resides in Florida, currently.

See a bit of Matthew in Spring Awakening:

I mention these three, because they truly are masters of their craft. Each of them has unique talents.  And, for me, it’s a pleasure to have know them.  I wrote this entry, because, I found myself wishing I could  meet a handful of famous, great actors. And then I realized, Wait a minute. I already know some amazing ones!

So, keep their names in your mind.   Because — you might just see them in lights.

I take no credit for the videos or images in this post.

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