TV Review: ‘Petals on the Wind’

Petals on the Wind

'Flowers in the Attic' sequel looks and feels like a rush job, but improves on its predecessor in nearly every way.

Hitting the air a mere four months after Lifetime scored a ratings bull’s-eye with guilty pleasure literary adaptation “Flowers in the Attic,” sequel “Petals on the Wind” certainly looks and feels like a rush job, but nevertheless improves on its predecessor in nearly every way. Where “Flowers” was airless and po-faced, “Petals” is manic and sudsy, speeding through a treasure trove of sleazy plot twists like CliffsNotes on crack. No one’s going to mistake this for high art, but as enjoyably trashy TV goes, “Petals” is more artful than it needs to be. With less name recognition than “Flowers,” Lifetime could see a dip in the ratings for the Memorial Day premiere, but plans to continue the franchise with two more adaptations should march forward unabashedly.

Picking up 10 years after the surviving Dollanganger children — Cathy (Rose McIver), Christopher (Wyatt Nash) and Carrie (Bailey Buntain) — escaped the attic where they were imprisoned by fundamentalist grandmother Olivia (Ellen Burstyn) and murderous mother Corinne (Heather Graham), “Petals” opens at the funeral of the kids’ foster father (a significant character in V.C. Andrews’ novel, dropped here in one of several prudent alterations).

From there the siblings are scattered like, well, petals: Self-possessed Cathy heads to New York to pursue her dream of becoming a prima ballerina and falls for tempestuous colleague Julien (Will Kemp), her brother-lover Christopher studies medicine and attracts the attention of sweet Southerner Sarah (Whitney Hoy), and social outcast Carrie struggles to overcome her shyness at an all-girls school before meeting lovesick minister Alex (Ross Philips).

Domestic violence, pregnancy, bullying, marriage proposals, a miscarriage, home renovation, a fatal car crash and suicide by baked goods follow — not necessarily in that order — as returning screenwriter Kayla Alpert condenses some 450 pages of melodramatic craziness into roughly 90 minutes of screen time (sans commercials). But the franchise’s real calling card is the forbidden romance between Cathy and Christopher, which began in the attic and blossoms here into a full-blown tortured love story.

By alternating significant time between Cathy, Christopher, Carrie and Corinne, the ADD storytelling in “Petals” ensures there’s never a dull moment — or a sensible one either — and the events retained from Andrews’ novel are just bonkers enough to make the approach pay off.

It also helps that McIver, soon to be seen starring in the CW’s new series “iZombie,” emerges as a captivating and surprisingly shrewd leading lady. This is plot- and not character-driven material, making it near impossible to get a handle on what kind of person Cathy is. But McIver manages to bring welcome nuance to a role that easily could’ve become a standard one-note soap opera heroine.

Talented co-star Buntain, of the late and much lamented ABC Family dramedy “Bunheads,” uses her diminutive frame to great advantage, emphasizing the disconnect she feels from her older, randier siblings. Returning cast MVP Burstyn makes the most of the little she’s given, delivering withering put-downs and self-pitying asides like a boss, despite her character’s terminally ill physical appearance.

While the men don’t fare as well, Kemp at least compensates for the amount of scenery he chews as a raging alcoholic thanks to his considerable prowess in the ballet sequences (while McIver’s dancing is all too obviously performed by a double). There’s so much ballet in the first half that viewers may think they’re watching Lifetime’s answer to “Black Swan,” but “Petals” segues into a more conventional revenge story once Cathy turns her attention to Corinne’s trophy husband Bart (“Orphan Black” co-star Dylan Bruce, reprising his meager “Flowers” role with only slightly more importance but much more bare skin).

Director Karen Moncrieff, who has ace indies “Blue Car” and “The Dead Girl” on her resume, is essentially slumming it here, but imbues the film with more visual texture and atmosphere than expected from a quickie TV movie. Her guiding hand extends to sharp contributions from d.p. Anastas Michos and some choice ’70s wardrobe pieces from costume designer Mona May.

Whether or not this creative upswing continues with planned threequel “If There Be Thorns,” “Petals” proves it was a good move to get the Dollangangers out of the attic and into the wild.

TV Review: 'Petals on the Wind'

(Movie; Lifetime, Mon. May 26, 9 p.m.)


Filmed in Los Angeles by Lifetime Pictures in association with Silver Screen Pictures.


Executive producers, Merideth Finn, Michele Weiss, Charles Fries, Rob Sharenow, Tanya Lopez, Lisa Hamilton-Daly; producers, Richard D. Arredondo, Kyle Clark, Lina Wong; director, Karen Moncrieff; writer, Kayla Alpert, based on the novel by V.C. Andrews; camera, Anastas Michos; production designer, Clay Griffith; editor, Mark Stevens; music, Mario Grigorov; casting, Robin Lippin. 120 MIN.


Rose McIver, Wyatt Nash, Heather Graham, Bailey Buntain, Ellen Burstyn, Dylan Bruce, Will Kemp, Whitney Hoy, Ellia English, Nick Searcy, Ross Philips.

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  1. V. Holbert says:

    Terrible adaption of a real good book. There was so much material to use but they chose to add things that never happened and skip over key parts of the story. The whole first part of the story was glossed over and they killed off an key character in the opening of the show! It was important to establish their first few years in Paul’s home instead of skipping to ten years later. If they were going to to this book then they should have turned it into a mini-series and told the story the right way. What a big disappointment. Epic Fail!

  2. Stardella Jarmond says:

    I was very disappointed when I saw this film. I am a huge fan of the ” Flowers in the Attic” series. I do not understand how the writer can go into so much details in “Flowers in the Attic”; things that happened to the children the attic (relationship between Christopher and Cathy), finding the truth about who was poisoning the children, and other things that the 1987 version did not show. Petals of the Wind left out a lot stuff that was in the book. I did not understand why Paul died in the beginning of the movie instead of towards the end, why they did not show the relationship between Paul and Cathy, the way Julian died was totally different from the book, and the fact that the grandmother was able to talk after her stroke. I really wanted to see Cathy gets her revenge towards the grandmother like she did in the book. It seem like who ever wrote the script did not read the book and if he or she did that person just glance at it and pick out what he or she thought should be in the movie. If the writer is going to go by the book, than go by the book and don’t change a lot things. Sometimes that can mess up the story of what it’s really about. I just hope that these next films; “If There Be Thorns”, “Seeds of Yesterday” and “Garden of Shadows” are better than Petals of the Wind.

  3. Jaime says:

    Very disappointing. The timelines are way off. Far too different from the book for a true VC Andrews lover. Paul’s was a Hughes charecter in the book and so sad he’s not in the movie. Wondering wth the writers were thinking

  4. OH MY GOD YOU IGNORANT WRITER>>>>>READ THE BOOK! IT does not do any justice! it sucked so much! CATHY does not get in the accident with Julian. By the time Dr. Paul dies she has already been married to Julian and he already died from the car crash. Jory is already born.

    Christopher being engaged to Sarah Reeves doesn’t even happen in the book at all.

    THEY HAVE WRECKED This Brilliant and emotionally wonderful Book. I swear they need to do a two part and make it the way the book is for IF THERE BE THORNS AND SEEDS OF YESTERDAY!

  5. Tracey says:

    Vanessa you are 100% correct!! It was horrible – Flowers in the attic wasn’t the best ( much better then 80’s version) but didn’t follow it well, but Petals on the Wind was NOTHING like the book! They shouldn’t even be able to call it the same name as the book!

  6. Vanessa quick says:

    The movie petals in the wind is horrible. It is nothing like the book. They have changed just about everything. How could lifetime make Vc Andrews best series into the worst movie ever. It was worse than flowers in the attic. If I were Vc Andrews (and still alive) I would sue lifetime for everything they had. Lifetime stop making these movies!!!!
    If you are a Vc Andrews fan you shod be livid right now.
    Lifetime I will never watch you again.

  7. kim marshall says:

    Nothing like the book vèry disappointing
    Paul played a very important part on the book but he was killed off in five seconds in the movie. Lousy

  8. Deserie says:

    Super pissed about this movie! It sucks an has nothing to do with the book! Completely ruins the whole story line book wise. If I was V.C. Andrews I would be livid. Lifetime this was horrible! Should’ve had the screen writers actually read the books! Must’ve been written by interns. I’m so disappointed.

  9. Aries Manuel says:

    Looking forward to this, I am a fan of Flowers…

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