Lifetime’s ‘Petals on the Wind’ Fails to Take Flight

As twisted as Flowers in the Attic is, the Gothic tone of the films and the novel have attracted generations. The tale of the Dollanganger children’s imprisonment and later escape is not easy to absorb, but it is a cult classic for a reason. Even the 2013 Lifetime movie captured the mix of forbidden romance, terror and bleak family drama that makes the insular tale both repulse and captivate. Lifetime’s sequel, Petals on the Wind, fails to follow suit.

Picking up a decade after Cathy, Christopher and Carrie escape the attic, the three remaining siblings have each tried to put the past behind them. Cathy, now played by Rose McIver, is dedicated to ballet, Christopher (Wyatt Nash) is a third year medical student and Carrie (the criminally underused Bailey Buntain) is struggling through high school. From the beginning, Petals on the Wind lacks the cohesiveness of the original story. The Dollangangers bounce through time at a dizzying pace, forcing the story to be a told in a series of halfhearted vignettes.

Christopher and Cathy are still in love, still following in their parents’ footsteps even as they try to fight against their desire to be together. Oddly enough, it is their attempts to refuse their impulse to stay together that leads the movie astray. Cathy sets off for New York with Julian (Will Kemp) the sociopath son of her ballet teacher who alternates between oozing smarmy charm and being abusive at an alarming rate. Because of the erratic time jumps, it is impossible to keep track of how long Cathy and Julian are together, but the movie expects us to buy the idea that the duo have passionate sex in one scene shortly after arriving in New York to Julian being so violently offended that Cathy does not love him that he hurls her to the ground in the next. Appropriately, Julian’s apartment looks as dank and dark as the attic, suggesting Cathy is trading one prison for another. However, the power balance in the relationship shifts dramatically before it disintegrates completely.

Interestingly (and interestingly, I mean disturbingly), while Cathy is going through another bought of degradation, Christopher is living an idyllic life with his southern belle girlfriend. Given how horrible things are for both Cathy and Carrie throughout the film, it sets off alarm bells to see the only surviving son living a charmed life with only Nash’s pensive scowls to hint at the character’s displeasure. This story truly is the story of the Dollanganger women. Christopher is just a confused observer who wants to marry his sister.

While McIver does an admirable job of showing Cathy transforming into a woman as angry, vengeful and embittered as her mother, she cannot save a production with no ambition besides checking off the various miseries required for a successful misery porn Lifetime movie. Forbidden love? Check. Tragic deaths? Check. Rape? Check. Revenge fantasies? Check. It is all perfunctory and with Ellen Burstyn trapped in a bed throughout the movie there is no one with any gravitas to elevate the tediousness.

Petals on the Wind is a lightweight follow-up to much darker and more tragic story. By the time Cathy sets her course for payback the running time is almost up and the viewer is left to realize they have just spent an hour meandering aimlessly through years of dance scenes not featuring Buntain, and Nash making a concerned face while Heather Graham attempts to renovate the haunted mausoleum she left her children in a decade ago.

Given that we have three generations of women who have left each others’ lives scarred, it would have been nice to see Petals on the Wind delve into the psychology behind the unending parade of pain. Instead, the movie just floats along until it reaches a dull and completely expected conclusion. Even Cathy’s arc is too abbreviated to be meaningful. Petals on the Wind is a case of Lifetime capitalizing on the success of Flowers in the Attic with a rushed, mess of a movie that commits the deadliest of movie sins: it does not shock, it does not move, it does not provoke…unless yawns count, it is simply a bore.

Petals on the Wind airs tonight, Monday, May 26th at 9PM ET/PT on Lifetime.

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