Ok, V.C. Andrews fans. We've been waiting for decades to see Petals on the Wind adapted for the screen. So how does Lifetime's TV movie measure up? I've seen it, and I'm going to be as honest as possible with you here: there's good news and there's not-so-good news. We'll start with the latter. If you thought the Flowers in the Attic Lifetime adaptation would've been better as a miniseries, with a bit more time to really dig into V.C. Andrews haunting and emotional story, expect to feel similarly toward Petals on the Wind.
On the bright side, as was the case with the new adaptation of Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind does make a strong effort to capture the source material. If you were to make a timeline of major events within the second novel of V.C. Andrews' Dollanganger series, you'll find that many of the key moments (or versions of them) do make it into the TV movie. But the pacing is rushed and jerky, and the jump forward doesn't allow us much time to re-immerse ourselves into the story or get to know these characters ten years after the events of Flowers in the Attic.
If it hasn't been made apparent already, this article isn't intended to be a traditional review of Lifetime's Petals on the Wind. Consider it more of a book-to-screen analysis of the TV movie, intended mainly for those who've read V.C. Andrews' Dollanganger series, and specifically, the second book in the series, Petals on the Wind. It contains some references to the plot of the book, but no major spoilers. This is my reaction as a fan of the book, to fans of the book. If you're only looking for vague, general impressions, read the intro above and skip to the verdict.
A few key changes...I'm not going to nitpick all of the little changes that were made from the book to the screen, but there were a few notable adjustments to the story for the movie. Petals on the Wind follows up on Lifetime's Flowers in the Attic TV movie, which told the story of four siblings forced to live in a secluded bedroom of a grand mansion for years while their widowed mother attempts to regain a place in her father's will. Lifetime's new TV movie jumps ahead to 1970, when Cathy is on the verge of pursuing a career as a dancer. Chris (Wyatt Nash) is a third year med student. And Carrie (Bailey Buntain) is attending a prestigious prep school.
In the book, the story picks up almost exactly where Flowers in the Attic left off. Fresh from their escape from Foxworth Hall, the three runaway siblings are rescued by Henny, a kindly housekeeper who encounters them on a bus and takes them to her "doctor-son" boss Paul Sheffield, who becomes a father-figure to all of them, a mentor to Chris, and a love interest to Cathy. Yes, he's way too old for her, but let's face it, it's hardly the most inappropriate romance in Cathy's life. Lifetime's movie acknowledges that Paul took them in, but he is barely -- and I mean very barely -- seen, as the jump forward essentially eliminates him from the equation. Given the short amount of time that this movie has to tell its story, it's an understandable omission.
So the jump forward is a big change from the book, as is the omission of one key romance from the source material. While Paul is worked out of the story, a romance for Chris is worked in, adding a bit off drama to his side of things, as Cathy pursues her career in dance and attempts to distance herself from her brother romantically. Carrie, meanwhile suffers as a social outcast at school. Having spent too many years away from the sun and a healthy childhood, she's smaller than average and is called a freak by her peers. The attic haunts all of the Dollanganger siblings in the years that follow their escape, while their mother, Corrine, happily enjoys her inheritance and her marriage to Bart Winslow. She's pretending she never had kids, and is busying herself making plans to renovate Foxworth Hall. The Grandmother, meanwhile, is bedridden from a stroke, but is lucid enough to try to cause problems for Corrine as it relates to her secret past.
There are other changes from book to screen. In fact, we could probably list a dozen or more deviations from the source material, but changes, adjustments and omissions are to be expected with any adaptation, and the ones in Petals on the Wind make sense, for the most part. With two hours (including commercials) to work with, this movie works in about as much as it probably can from the book. The bigger issue is the pacing, but get to that in a minute. First, let's talk about the casting...