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MOVIE REVIEW : No Bouquet in 'Flowers in the Attic'

November 20, 1987|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

"Flowers in the Attic" (selected theaters) is a protracted exercise in morbidity, relieved only by moments of ludicrousness. In adaptinC. Andrews' Gothic chiller, writer-director Jeffrey Bloom tries hard to establish an eerie fairy-tale-gone-sour mood, yet fails to work up the credibility necessary to sustain it. The result is a real turnoff.

Bloom opens with scenes of domestic coziness not seen outside a TV commercial. Victoria Tennant and Marshall Colt are cast as a young couple whose four children echo their blond handsomeness. Their idyllic Middle American life is smashed when the father dies suddenly, apparently in an accident, and Tennant is soon taking her kids to live with her parents in a palatial Williamsburg-style estate with grounds as extensive as Windsor Castle or Versailles.

It seems that 17 years earlier Tennant was cast out by her parents when she married Colt; she now believes her only hope is to get back in the good graces--and therefore in the will--of her dying father (Nathan Davis), clearly one of the richest men in America. To do this, however, she must allow her religious fanatic mother (Louise Fletcher, who seems to be parodying her Oscar-winning Nurse Ratchit) to imprison her children until their grandfather dies.

Bloom, whose forte is decidedly not the spinning of tantalizing enigmas, leaves too many questions unanswered. For openers, we never know for sure whether the reason Tennant's parents reacted so violently to her marriage to Colt was actually valid.

Bloom is more effective in depicting how the four children cope with their crazy grandmother and their growing realization that their mother has abandoned them, seduced by the luxuries heaped on her by her forgiving father. Kristy Swanson and Jeb Stuart Adams play the teen-agers among the four and Ben Ganger and Lindsay Parker are the angelic-looking toddler twins. If nothing else is credible about "Flowers in the Attic" (rated a mild PG-13), at least these four valiant, very youthful actors make the children's response to their predicament believable.

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