Heaven (2019 Lifetime)

VC Andrews’ Heaven  (2019 Lifetime)

Stars: Annalise Basso, Chris McNally, Julie Benz

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Watch the movie here

Synopsis (via Lifetime)

“Heaven” introduces the infamous Casteel family, the least regarded of all the families living in the poverty-stricken foothills of the mountains of West Virginia. Yet the eldest daughter, Heaven Leigh Casteel (Annalise Basso), was still the smartest girl in the backwoods and determined to redeem her family name. However, her dreams become deferred the day her stepmother flees and her selfish father Luke (Chris William Martin) sells her and her four siblings to different families. Heaven is sent to live in the home of Luke’s deranged ex-lover, Kitty (Julie Benz), who torments Heaven as Kitty’s husband, Cal (Chris McNally) lures Heaven into a forbidden relationship while she fights to reunite her siblings.

Thoughts

The movie starts off with a shot of a broken baby doll face, but this is no Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

Heaven Casteel is a redheaded teen who knows what an acute triangle is and isn’t into boys. Her sister, Fanny Casteel, is the opposite and focuses more on boys than school. Apparently, the Casteel family is endless. We next meet, Tom Casteel, who gets picked on in school and likes to woodwork? Heaven’s pregnant mom, Sarah, washes laundry on a washboard and has two more little kids with her. Heaven’s father, Luke, is a deadbeat alcoholic and goes missing from time to time. (He also seems to dislike Heaven, kicking her out of the house.) Then there is Grandma Casteel, who sits on the porch in a rocking chair and gives lots of exposition. 

The town hates the Casteel family because of some drunk driving accident involving moonshine? Also, Heaven is not who she thinks she is. Sarah is not her mother, her mother is buried in the woods and died during childbirth. Grandma Castell takes her to the spot where she is buried and tells her that her mother’s name was Angel. Angel was from a wealthy family and left a few things for her daughter. (A creepy portrait doll and a wedding dress.) When is this movie set in time? They basically live in the house from the beginning of Coal Miner’s Daughter

Back at contemporary high school, a new boy named Logan arrives all the way from New York City! Heaven quotes Shakespeare at him, and he is charmed by her backwoods ways. Speaking of backwoods ways, Sarah has a miscarriage under the table of their house. Also, Gran falls out of her rocking chair and dies?!?!?

Without Gran, the family falls apart. Sarah (Heaven’s mom) can’t take care of her kids and runs away, and Luke (Heaven’s father) literally brings home the bacon, and that is about it. Logan brings food over to the house for some reason. He tells Heaven that he admires her for keeping the family together even though they don’t have functioning adult supervision. They kiss on the front porch, and Heaven makes Logan promise not to tell anyone. She doesn’t want her kid siblings to go to foster care. (Which is precisely what happens in the next scene.)

Tom, Fanny, and Heaven are too old for foster care. Tom goes off to work on a farm. (He likes working on the land!) Fanny is taken against her will to go live with a creepy reverend. Heaven is left with her drunk father, who sends her away because he can’t stand to be alone with her. 

Heaven is picked up by the most attractive couple, Kitty (Julie Benz) and Cal Dennison. They are not only beautiful; they are excited to start a family. She is a dental hygienist, and he is a novelist. They live in Atlanta. Kitty shows Heaven around and insists on being called Momma. Kitty is also obsessed with being clean and makes Heaven take baths and clean the house. Cal feels sorry for her and helps her clean while Kitty is at work. (They listen to big band and clean in a montage.)

When Kitty comes home, Cal and Heaven massage her while she drinks wine. These services are foreplay for her and Cal even though, it seems like Cal is also attracted to Heaven. The next day he tells her that the book he is working on has been about her. (or someone who is like her.) They drink wine, and he tells her to call him daddy. I’m hoping this movie isn’t going down this road, but I’ve seen Flowers in the Attic.  

Cal comes to Heaven’s defense when she wants to send letters to her family. Kitty won’t have it and tears them up. Kitty then gets upset because she realizes that Cal and Kitty have been spending too much time together and getting to know one another. To punish Heaven, Kitty draws a scalding hot bath and dunks her in the scalding hot water. Cal comes and pulls Heaven out of the water. Later, Kitty apologizes and rubs butter on Heaven’s burned skin. She tells Heaven that she lost her virginity, got pregnant, and had an abortion with Luke when she was thirteen. Heaven is the child she should have had.  

Heaven continues to write to Logan back home. She also overhears Cal talking to the doctor who prescribes medication for Kitty to calm her down. Still, it is lethal when taken with alcohol. Cal isn’t creepy, I guess. (I still don’t trust this man. He is too sexy.) He takes Heaven out to a meadow, and they drink champagne for her birthday. He buys her a copy of Jane Eyre and tells her that she deserves love. (Not with him! Heaven is getting so many mixed signals.)

When Heaven comes home, she finds Kitty sitting in the dark with her mom’s portrait doll. Kitty calls Heaven’s birth mom a whore and smashes the doll. Kitty then smashes Heaven in the head. Cal comes home and gets Kitty off the floor he holds her as she cries. They then slow dance? Kitty is sent away to get better at home with her parents. (Who happens to be one of Heaven’s teachers from school.)

With Kitty away, Cal and Heaven totally have sex on the floor. I’m mad at myself for thinking Lifetime wouldn’t go there, but they do.  

Back at school, Heaven finds Logan in the boy’s locker room. She asks him why he hasn’t been responding to her letters, and he says he hasn’t been getting them. Cal finds out and gets jealous. Kitty’s mom tells him to discipline her. Cal takes Heaven into the kitchen and pretends to whip her with his belt and then take makeout on the kitchen counter…

Heaven hears that her sister is locked in the house of the reverend and goes to check on her. She finds Fanny pregnant as hell and brainwashed. Fanny just wants to raise the baby, even though the reverend raped her and lied about it to everyone. While she is out, Logan asks Heaven to marry him. He kisses her and tells her that he loves her. 

Kitty is dying of cancer, and she and Heaven have a heart to heart. She gives her blessing for Heaven and Cal to be together. Heaven and Cal kiss outside of Kitty’s deathbed and are caught by the teacher/Kitty’s mom. She vows to tell everyone in town. Everyone in town thinks of Heaven as the town whore. (Including Logan.)

Heaven cries by her mother’s grave and promises that she will not give up on herself. She is going to go to college and make a better life for herself. Then she goes to her father and tells him to give her information about Angel’s family. Heaven tells Cal she needs to find herself (because she is 18! Back off, Cal.) and goes off to meet the family her mother left behind. 

Side Note

What did we think of this? I was kind of into it, but mostly because of the amount of wine I consumed. Thoughts?

I’m not familiar with the VC Andrews’ books. However, Lifetime is FULLY invested in this series with 4 more movies planned for the rest of the summer/fall… 

Chris William Martin (Heaven’s dad) is always solid in TV movies. 

Minority Report: NO POC in this movie. 

Don’t forget to listen to the Lifetime Uncorked Podcast available on iTunesStitcherSpotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts!

Overall rating

🔪🔪🔪 (3 Knives)

🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷 (5 glasses of wine required)

*Photo Credit: © 2019 Lifetime

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2 Comments

  1. OMG! I just discovered that Lifetime did this V.C. Andrews series and I’m so excited that I binged watched the first 4 yesterday. I loved V.C. Andrews books when I was a kid and these movies are bringing back all of those fond memories, so THANK YOU, LIFETIME!! I hope they do more of these series, especially My Sweet Audrina.

    I wanted to say that I very much enjoyed this adaptation, except I really don’t care for the actress that they chose to play Heaven. She doesn’t look like the book character and although a perfectly lovely actress (and I’m so sorry for this) she is not attractive enough to be this unintentional vixen. The only reason I even mention this is because it is a huge part of who the Heaven character is. She’s supposed to be such an attractive gal that all men instantly love her and women instantly hate her. Basso is just not that and I found it jarring. For instance, when Cal gets a boner when he accidentally spies her very generic corduroyed bottom. I guess Cal gets excited over any human person in clothes? I dunno, maybe the point isn’t that Heaven is so freaking, over-the-top-beautiful (as repeatedly said throughout the book and movie) it’s that she’s vulnerable and therefore exploitable – which is attractive? It’s not that Basso isn’t attractive in her own right it’s just that she isn’t crazy-hot like Heaven is supposed to be. Heaven is supposed to look just like her mom (who is supposed to be crazy-hot) and her grandmother, who is also crazy-hot (as is the actress). Again, it’s just that this seems to be a major plot point that isn’t here. The characters tell us how attractive they think Heaven is, but ah, do they ever show us? No, not once. I suppose one could make the argument that it’s not about looks, Heaven is just so unlucky that she constantly finds herself in vulnerable positions with unscrupulous and predatory men (Cal, the preacher, and her father). I suppose she is really smart too, although not really proven in this movie either other than she read Romeo and Juliet. Yes, she corrected her teacher about Romeo and Juliet, but to me that demonstrated the teacher’s lack of knowledge rather than Heaven’s exceptional intellect. Whatever, Heaven is supposed to be the pinnacle of brains and beauty and well, I guess we’ll just have to take the character’s words for it. It makes me feel like this movie is gaslighting me. It’s as if the show is telling me that we are on a whirlwind trip to Italy, but really we’re jut sitting in an Olive Garden somewhere in Nebraska.

    That HUGE plot point aside, the movie was delightfully V.C.Andrews! I thought the Casteels could have looked poorer and trashier and her high school looked too modern. I loved all of the rest of the casting, particularly the slithery preacher wand tarty Fanny. Well done!

    I thought the writing was well done, and the dialog believable. Ultimately though, it is hard to transfer all the depth and nuance contained in a lengthy novel to that of a movie so I think some points weren’t fleshed out enough because of time constraints. Regardless, this movie and the subsequent ones were a treat to behold and I am over the moon that Lifetime adapted these books. I hope they adapt more.

    – 1 star for casting Basso as Heaven Leigh.
    + 1 star for all the other casting
    – 1 star for not depicting the Casteel’s poor enough
    – 1 star for 2000’s highschool supposed to be set in the 1970’s?
    + 1 star for crazy adopted mom foot rubbing scene (EW!)
    + 1 star for Cal and Heaven’s relationship development (although it was exploitative and wrong, it made me #teamCal)
    + 5 STARS for adapting these books in the first place! More please!!!

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