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V.C. Andrews’ HIDDEN JEWEL – Lifetime Movie Review

April 1, 2021 in Review - No Comments
V.C. Andrews' HIDDEN JEWEL: Lifetime Movie Review

By this point, if you’ve engaged with my Grown-Ass V.C. Andrews series, you know that I don’t often love the notorious “4th book spawn of the protagonist” stories. See here. And here. They typically end up being a rehashing of the previous character’s drama but with a couple new rape-y twists for the daughter. People responded poorly to the above promotional still of Lifetime’s Hidden Jewel. First, because Pearl’s hair wasn’t blond, and second, because WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL IS UP WITH THOSE BANGS, YO? Are these bad bangs an ominous sign? Let’s find out in my review of Lifetime’s final adaptation in the Landry Series, Hidden Jewel.

Some Notes Going In

I remember finding a copy of Hidden Jewel at a Value Village while on vacation in Vancouver. I read the entire book during the four-hour trip back home. There’s little that I remember of it, other than the fact that Ruby went a little haywire, Pearl wanted to be a doctor and was dating a dude named Jack.

For some reason, Lifetime decided to change Jack’s name to John, which irks me to no end for absolutely no reason. And the actor they got to play John, while super cute, looks more like a Jack than a John. I suppose in terms of botching V.C. Andrews books, this is a pretty minor flaw in terms of flaws, yeah, I was not pleased.

The Passage of Time

Piano music. Bayou stock footage. But this time, we’re in a dream, where Pearl stumbles around the swamp and finds a dead Paul, who grabs her and asks for help. Pearl wakes, and thankfully her promo image hair isn’t as bad at her 80s curly hair. She reminds me a lot of Max from Stranger Things, which is cool, right? It’s cool.

Also of note is that Ruby now has some KILLER 80s volume going now, and considering that she’s supposed to be like nearly 40, I can say that Lifetime did a half-decent job with trying to age the actress. She still looks young, but she looks older than she did in All That Glitters. Beau, however? They literally just slapped a pair of glasses on him for one scene and gave him a Patrick Bateman power suit and were like, “This baby-faced dude, he’s a legit MAN now and you have no choice but to believe it.” It’s funny because in some scenes he looks like an 80s dad, but then in others, they dress him in jeans and a rugby sweater and it’s like, “Is he, tho?”

LEMME JUST SAY THAT TY WOOD IN SERIAL KILLER GLASSES IS THE SEXIEST TY WOOD. I’D TOTES DRAW HIS PEEN.

Also, Nina’s back and has literally not aged. Must be all the voodoo, which Ruby supposedly has been keeping secret from her family life. Despite not seeing any of it in both Pearl in the Mist and All That Glitters, this plot just rears its head like hardcore Catholic guilt.

Pearl’s Life

In the morning, Ruby worries about Pearl’s recurring nightmares, but then we meet Jean and Pierre, Pearl’s twin brothers who don’t look identical even though they were supposed to be identical. Then we get Ruby fawning over how lUcKy PeArL iS, because this is V.C. Andrews and EVERY spawn book has this dumb shit scene.

Later is Pearl’s graduation party, where Paul’s sister Jean comes to deliver a gift of a photo album. Inside, Pearl finds a picture of Paul, which forces Ruby to deliver a giant passage of worries exposition about how this is an omen of bad things to come. Pearl worries, but then crashes into her boyfriend Claude, who takes her into a side room and forces her to have sex with him.

Pearl insists that “she doesn’t wanna have sex until it feels special”.

Claude whips out a condom. “And this doesn’t feel special?” he asks.

Like hey, safe sex! That’s rad! But safe sex without consent isn’t rad! Pearl shoves him off her.

“I’m like, a 10, Pearl. And you’re like… a 6.” He goes on in his best valley girl. “Like, seriously. I can’t even get you to feel anything, like, any emotion whatsoever. Not, like, that I was even looking for that.”

Turns out Claude was just looking to bone a nerd and now he can’t, so he peaces out and leaves Pearl with some obvious sexual insecurity that she gets to resolve later.

Catholic Bayou Guilt

Nina dies suddenly and is summoned to Mama Dede’s like, church place? Turns out Nina said something about some warning of an omen coming for Ruby, which sends Ruby spinning out of control. Mama Dede says that “Ruby knows what to do”. She then tells her that Ruby needs to bring a sacrifice to the graveyard. It’s all a bunch of convoluted stuff, but apparently Nina “knows something” that she needs to tell Ruby about some horrible thing she did in her past.

Ruby literally has no idea, even though it could literally be one of two things. She was horrible to her already horrible sister. She was also horrible to Paul. So like, maybe make amends for both those things, Ruby? Maybe start there?

Pearl insists that there is no “voodoo”, but then later wakes in the night to find her mom going full on The Craft mode, chanting with candles and stuff in the backyard.

I AM LIVING FOR THIS CHEAP RETRO WITCH MOVIE SET AESTHETIC

Hoping to quell Ruby’s paranoia, the family goes on a relaxing vacation at some cottage somewhere. Ruby demands that the boys be careful, but when Jean and Pierre head outside to play, Jean gets bitten by a snake and dies. And I’ll be damned, as cheesy and poorly-written this scene is, the splitting of twins always kills me.

Also, whatever happened to Uncle Jean? Is he still in the hospital? Is he dead? Does Ruby not care? Did I forget that he died?

Anyway, the family spends the rest of their vacation crying over Jean’s death, that is, until Pierre stumbles into the room and faints. Pearl does her best breathing technique coaching to help him out, but Pierre still ends up in the hospital with a myriad of random symptoms that none of the doctors can figure out.

Pearl swears that Pierre is suffering from Broken Heart Syndrome, which actually isn’t just a soap opera illness, despite sounding like one when Pearl talks to a psychiatrist about it. Ruby, however, knows exactly what’s up.

Back to the Bayou (Again!)

After performing the sacrifice at the graveyard, Ruby gets news from Nina saying that Ruby needs to figure out who she wronged and who has cursed her, otherwise the curse will worsen. Pearl tries to get Ruby to remain at Pierre’s side in order to help him get better, but Ruby continues talking in this breathless voice that I guess is supposed to convey her delusion.

Eventually, she runs away to the bayou, leaving Pearl and Beau to follow. Beau then delivers the past truth about Ruby’s marriage to Paul. And God, do I ever hate these scenes. The actors have little but the exposition to properly deliver it all. It’s the most wooden I’ve ever seen Beau.

The two head to the now-abandoned Cypress Woods, which is the same Cypress Woods from All That Glitters but with a few Lifetime prop vines thrown over the front gate to make it look abandoned. Before they can head inside, they’re confronted by a stranger on the property, some dude who works for the oil company named John who’s surveying for the new oil wells in the middle of the night for some reason.

Beau tries to call the hospital and then John does his little flirting routine with Pearl, telling her all the random shit he knows about her. “Word gets around here,” he says.

Beau returns with news that Pierre has taken a turn for the worst. On their way out, Beau slips on a step and shatters some bones in his arm. The doctor says he needs a lengthy and immediate operation, which is an effective way to make Pearl the only helpful person left in the family to help Pierre.

Back to the Bayou (A Third Time!)

Pearl teams up with John and returns to Cypress Woods in another attempt to find Ruby. They find her handprints on one of the dusty tables that so obviously isn’t the same interior as the original Cypress Woods set. Pearl decides to stay the night. John decides to stay to protect her, and he does when a tarantula just SUDDENLY appears on her chest.

He knocks the spider off, claiming that turantulas get scared when someone disturbs their webs, which is a bunch of BS.

Turantulas actually build burrows, JOHN!

The two find a bedroom with two beds to sleep on, but then Pearl has the dream with Paul again, which scared her enough to ask John to sleep next to her. They kiss a bit, but in the morning they wake a ridiculous amount of space apart.

The Past Makes A Return

On the way to the Tate mansion, Pearl crashes into Buster (the dude who tries to buy her, and then later tried to rape her). He says Pearl looks exactly like Ruby, even though she doesn’t.

While talking with Jean at the Tate’s, Glady’s conveniently wheels herself on a wheelchair. She’s apparently old now, even though she looks exactly the same as she did in the previous movie. She then confesses to being the one who put the picture of Paul in the album, as well as being the one who put the hex on Ruby.

She just…gets away with it, too! After spilling out her soap opera vengeance monologue, Pearl’s just like, “Let’s get going!” She and John head back to his apartment. He makes her spaghetti and puts some hot sauce on it because it turns out that he’s one of those dudes who makes hot sauce a personality trait.

“Do you like things pretty spicy?” he asks.

Turns out Pearl does, and the two end up having some great vanilla sex over a piano ballad. And it’s like COME ON, LIFETIME! Just let some people have some actual energy and tension. The actors have some chemistry and do their best here, but they literally have nothing else to work with other than the direction like, kiss and writhe a bit. This is doing nothing for me, unlike this scene from Superstore which has no intimacy but is the sexiest thing ever because it’s allllllll about that characterisation, yo.

Learn to write better sex scenes, Lifetime!

The next morning, John comes out of the shower and the two talk about how magical and life-changing their sex was. Pearl admits it was her first time. Then she says that she never thought she was capable of feeling love and BOOM, all her insecurities are gone, all because John stirred some hot sauce into a pot full of macaroni. Er, spaghetti.

“There’s so much more to life under the surface,” Pearl says.

Just One Last Rape Plot Point For Ya’ll

Buster, who also hasn’t aged in nearly 20 years, come back to tell Pearl that he’s found Ruby and that she’s in poor shape. He takes her to his shack (even though I thought he was rich?). OF COURSE, Ruby isn’t there. But what Buster does have is a homemade cage that he made to keep her in.

You know what happens next. There’s a half-decent action sequence where Pearl fights back against Buster, eventually managing to use her medical knowledge to position a knife against his throat. She threatens to cut his jugular and bleed him out, which is enough to get him to crawl into his own cage.

Pearl escapes through the woods and crashes into John again. Anyway, that misogynistic action sequence out of the way, it’s time to get back to finding Ruby.

Believing in Magic

Ruby’s right back where they expected her to be, in the actual Cypress Woods set. Ruby’s legit crazy now, and Pearl finally gives in, relenting that Gladys was the one who used Paul’s hatred for Ruby to power the hex against her. After more breathless exposition, Pearl admits that Paul wasn’t angry with Ruby in her dream, but that he was asking for help.

WHICH WOULD HAVE MADE FOR SOME GREAT CONTEXT IN THE BEGINNING, PEARL!

Ruby suddenly realizes that painting him as she remembered him (dead in the water, for some reason?) as a sacrifice is the key to removing the hex. This way, Paul will see how much Ruby loved him.

They find Mama Dede at Paul’s grave and do a while Charmed seance thing. Wind blows. Music plays. They burn the painting and Paul accepts Ruby’s plea for forgiveness. Then Ruby, Peal and John all walk off, leaving Mama Dede to clean up all her seance stuff by herself.

One Last Dose of Magic

Back at the hospital, Ruby’s back to her normal voice.

“So much of life is a mystery,” she says.

Pearl admits that not knowing is what makes life a bit more exciting, which is a fun little character shift in her, considering that she’s supposed to be rigid and factual all the time. It is a nice little mother/daughter moment. Then the two join Beau and the worsening Pierre in the hospital. No longer hopeless, Ruby vows that she can feel Pierre fighting. Then, two second later, Pierre wakes and takes his mask off.

Back to the Bayou! Pt. 39,003 (HOLY SHIT WHY CAN’T WE JUST STAY HERE ALREADY)

Pearl goes off to college and tells John about refraction. They kiss and express amazement with each other. Then, later, they head back to Cypress woods where Ruby’s fixing the place up for Pearl and John.

It’s a sweet ending, but I’m left wondering why Cypress Woods isn’t the Tate’s property? What the hell?

Final Thoughts

So this wasn’t awful. I liked the actress who played Pearl. She also apparently played Leigh in the final movie of the Casteel series (and had equally bad bangs there too). But she’s a good actress who gave Pearl a good head on a good pair of shoulders. Despite the wandering plot, she managed to carry the movie.

I’ve got a few qualms with the bad aging of the characters, but I really loved the introduction of the 80s wardrobe and appreciate that true V.C. Andrews aesthetic in the movie’s early scenes. The voodoo stuff felt really jammed in there. It especially felt forced to be a part of Ruby’s character, which we only saw vaguely with her Grandmere in the first movie.

My only other qualm is that Giselle is never mentioned. Ruby has no guilt for the part she played in her sister’s complete erasing from history. Like Giselle was a truly awful human being, but Ruby’s a grown-ass woman now and really should be able to acknowledge the fact that she likely wronged Giselle even worse than she wronged Paul.

Anyway, good for Pearl and all that, right?

V.C. Andrews' HIDDEN JEWEL

4.5

Rebecca's Review

4.5/10

Pros

  • Loving that 80s wardrobe!
  • Claude was so perfect at being 80s-era horrible.
  • The sacrifice painting of Paul was the best in the whole series.

Cons

  • Lifetime's shitty disguising of the Pacific Northwest as rural Louisiana
  • Is Beau 36 or 16? Lifetime can't decide.
  • Ruby's stupid paranoid whisper.
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Rebecca

Rebecca is a neo-noir author from Kamloops, British Columbia. Her first collection of gritty short fiction, Vile Men was published by Dark House Press in 2015. She also writes about her writer lifestyle on her blog at rebeccajoneshowe.com.

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