Ellen Burstyn IS the grandmother.
You probably already know that Ellen Burstyn is playing the grandmother, but what I’m saying is, she is the grandmother. As the formidable and occasionally abusive Grandmother, Burstyn steals every scene she’s in and really sets the bar for this film. She’s just the right blend of intimidating and judgmental, with the slightest trace of human, which is good, as it makes her far less of a caricature than she might be otherwise. That human side of her also helps to draw the line between her motivations — as an extremely religious and occasionally abusive woman — and Corrine’s, as we see the kids’ mother quickly drawn back into a world of wealth and glamour while her kids waste away in the attic.

As for Corinne, I think the movie gets her character right and I like Heather Graham in general, but I had a hard time connecting with Graham as Corrine, especially by comparison to the way I connected to Burstyn as the Grandmother. That was less of an issue with Kiernan Shipka and Mason Dye, who play Cathy and Chris respectively, but it helps that I don't associate either of those actors with a lot of other movies. Both Shipka and Dye perform well, but the movie doesn't really have enough time to allow us to connect with their characters quite as deeply as we do in the book. That goes back to the issue of time, as the events in the film move pretty quickly. The book benefits from a first-person narration, taking the reader right into Cathy's head and offering us her view of everything, including her perspective on her brother.

In terms of developing the characters, the film lacks some of the depth of the book, but it does capture the true nature of Andrews' characters at their basic cores. Corrine is flighty and sadly shallow, Cathy is distrusting and temperamental, and Chris is the brainy optimist. As for Cory (Maxwell Kovach) and Carrie (Ava Telek), they’re in the background a lot of the time, coming into view when necessary but not really on screen enough for us to get to know them as individuals. I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more of Carrie’s loud side and Cory’s interest in music. That brings us to some other nitpicks…

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