Okay friends, I originally (and rather foolishly) intended on reading the entire Landry series before the highly anticipated Lifetime adaptations came out, but here we are. Ruby was my very first V.C. Andrews read. I fell in love with it at age 14. I loved the richness of the bayou and all the horrible stuff that Ruby had to endure. And while I did actually manage to reread Ruby in March, I wasn’t able to set aside the time to write the Grown-Ass V.C. Andrews review. BUT, at least I’m entering the movie with fresh knowledge of all that happened in the book. So let’s review Lifetime’s guaranteed-to-be-shitty movie rendition of my favourite V.C. Andrews book, Ruby, shall we?
Some Notes Going In
The casting for Ruby excited me because they got actual twins to play Ruby and Giselle. They also had red(ish?) hair, which goes along with the characters, unlike what Lifetime did with Heaven in their adaption of the Casteel series. I also enjoyed the series promo images on the bayou. Obviously, I wasn’t going into the films with high hopes. Thus far I’ve seen Flowers in the Attic and Heaven.
Those are literally the ONLY Lifetime movies I’ve actually ever watched, so consider me a newb.
I’m also not entirely sure why Lifetime opted to only do adaptations of 4 out of the 5 books in the Landry series. The original press release said they’d do all five. Maybe the pandemic had something to do with it, or maybe the plot of Tarnished Gold didn’t make for a decent movie? I dug around and found nothing.
And yes, I do plan on reviewing all the V.C. Andrews movies at some point. I need to milk this name to get website hits for as long as I possibly can, baby.
Okay, the opening scenes in Houma were what MADE Ruby for me, so I was really excited to start off with some atmospheric gloomy bayou establishing shots. Then BAM, Ruby starts monologuing about Grandmere Catherine and we’re tossed right into the baby exorcism scene. And I don’t mean that we’re thrown into action, but more of a stage-direction action sequence where some poor mother who lost her baby cries about a demon taking the baby. Then Grandmere Catherine gives us the exposition, saying that the demon likes hiding in water.
Ruby literally turns around with her lantern and finds a fucking teacup on the floor and she’s like, “THERE’S SOME WATER!”
Then Grandmere lights a candle and the music goes heavy and she says some voodoo words and the candle goes out. Then she literally tells the mother who just lost her fucking baby, “Bury the child. The demon is gone.” Then they walk away.
Grandmere also sounds like a fucking robot and can’t deliver a single line for shit.
Cut to the next morning when Ruby’s painting a scene of a shadowed man in the bayou. In the book, this painting was a heron, but Ruby claims the that man is her father, which would be fine if the painting wasn’t so damn rudimentary-looking. Grandmere then robotically tells Ruby that Landry women don’t pick good men.
*WHICH IS FORESHADOWING*
Cut to Ruby heading to school with her boyfriend, Paul, in a woods setting that so clearly isn’t the bayou that I had to look things up and YES, it turns out this movie was filmed in Victoria, British Columbia. Anyway, Paul looks like a young version of Jimmy Barrett from Mad Men and comes on just like waaaaaaay too strong after finding out that a different boy has asked Ruby out to the fais dodo dance. Movie Ruby plays coy and toys with Paul, unlike the book Ruby, who remained naive and shy.
To be honest, I quite like the sassy Ruby. But then she goes back to her Grandmere at their roadside market stall and asks for permission to go to the dance with Paul, and Grandmere’s like:
DO NOT BONE PAUL TATE
Then, she starts coughing, which is the shitty movie plot device that guarantees she is not long for this world. But us viewers aren’t even long for the coughing. A man drives up in a fancy sedan. He owns a gallery in New Orleans and he wants to buy all of Ruby’s paintings. Happy music plays and the scene cuts back to Ruby with Paul in his truck, parked outisde of the bar for no other reason than for it to be convenient that they’re there when Ruby’s Grandpere Jack gets kicked out of the bar.
Remember what I said about Paul coming on strong?
Well, Ruby and Paul take Grandpere Jack back to his grubby cabin. He passes out on the bed and Ruby starts cleaning, wary about the fact that her family is a bunch of poor scum when Paul isn’t. But Paul doesn’t care. He tells Ruby that he loves her. Ruby tells Paul that she loves him. The sappy piano music builds. Then they kiss. THe kisses grow passionate. Then Paul pushes Ruby up against the wall OF HER GRANDFATHER’S CABIN, IN WHICH HE IS CURRENTLY PASSED OUT. Paul lifts Ruby onto the table but then he drops her down on it hard enough to clatter all the grubby plates.
Grandpere wakes, not quite lucid, and two laugh about how this is how they expected things to go. Which means that they totally would have done what robot Grandma told them not to do IN RUBY’S GRANDFATHER’S CABIN, IN WHICH HE WAS CURRENTLY PASSED OUT.
This shit was not in the dang book, man.
New Shit Comes to Light
Paul takes Ruby home and we cut to Grandmere spying on them kissing through the lace curtains. Grandmere decides that Ruby’s finally old enough to know the truth that Paul isn’t just some rich oil dude’s son. He’s actually Ruby’s half-brother, born out of rape when Paul’s father seduced Ruby’s late mother, Gabrielle.
Grandmere: Out of all the boys, you had to choose Paul Tate?
Ruby: STOP IT!
Grandmere: It’s true, Ruby. You’re going to have to tell him Goodbye.
Ruby sobs and protests but then the sad music builds up into a score, so she has to accept the truth.
Hug. Granddaughter. Show. Emotion.
The scene then cuts, which is one major qualm I have with Lifetime movies, is that they basically just churn out plot with virtually NO CHARACTERIZATION and all the characters just feel wooden and rigid. Then the scene moves on into the next, unable to follow the character’s emotional gravity through the story. In this case, Raechelle Banno managed to give Ruby a few quirks and depth with what limited script she was given, so we get to follow her into the next totally-simulated “bayou” scene in Victoria, B.C. where she lies to Paul, telling him that they need to admit that they’re “from two different worlds”.
She wants to focus on being an artist. Paul loses his shit and implies that her being a “Landry” means that she’s a whore. He leaves Ruby crying, and Lifetime’s poor timing cuts right into the next scene where Ruby walks right up to Grandmere’s literal death bed, shouting, “LOOK! SPECIAL DELIVERY FROM THE CHEVELLIER GALLERY!”
Even More New Shit Comes to Light
Grandmere starts coughing up something fierce and tells Ruby to put the money in a Bible in her special chest that’s literally right in front of the bed, saying that Grandpere Jack won’t find it there. Ruby then finds a picture of herself as a little girl with a man inside the Bible. Grandmere then fesses up that the girl in the picture isn’t Ruby, but Ruby’s twin sister, who Grandpere Jack sold to a rich man named Pierre Dumas who, once again, seduced Gabrielle and impregnated her.
Unable to have children with his wife, Pierre agreed to buy the baby, but nobody knew at the time that Gabrielle was pregnant with twins. Grandmere delivered Ruby and raised her as her own after Gabrielle died.
Grandmere knows she isn’t long for this world, so she tells Ruby to use the money to go to New Orleans and find her family. Then, when Ruby goes to try to get her some medicine, Grandmere conveniently dies literally while Ruby’s back is turned.
Grandpere Jack crashes Grandmere’s funeral, vowing to quick drinking and take proper care of Ruby, but then the next scene cuts to Ruby in her bed listening to the sound of Grandpere drinking it up with his buddies. Paul comes in through the window and tries to make out with Ruby. She doesn’t even get a chance to push him away, because Grandpere busts in and tells her that he’s going to sell Ruby to his rich friend Buster.
The next morning, Grandpere locks Ruby to her bed and invites Buster over. In the book, Grandpere fails to actually chain her to the bed, but the movie has her legit chained to that thing, man, and when Buster comes over, he offers Grandpere an extra 500 bucks to “break her in” first. Paranoid, Ruby manages to break the bed and hide AOC-style behind her bedroom door, smashing Buster in the face before nearly choking Grandpere to death.
She finds Buster’s $1500 bucks but LITERALLY TOSSES IT ASIDE for the, what, $200 that she got from selling her paintings? Seriously, Ruby? Take all the fucking money. No shame, lady. No shame.
Ruby befriends a nice woman named Annie at the bus station, who gives her the neckbone of a cat that was murdered at midnight, claiming that it’ll give Ruby some “good gris gris”. But this is a V.C. Andrews story, so we know that nothing good will come of this.
Thankfully, Lifetime decides not to depict the near-rape scene in New Orleans and gets Ruby to her father’s mansion in no time. A young lad named Beau pulls up in his literal penis car. He laughs at Ruby for being dresses like a peasant girl, even though he’s also in some ridiculous getup for Mardi Gras. He calls Ruby “Giselle”, which then allows Ruby to explain to Beau exactly what’s going on.
Thankfully, Beau grasps the concept pretty quick, but when he “surprises” Giselle the twin sister she never knew about, Giselle of course responds like the bitchy twin sister she’s supposed to be. In the chaos, Ruby then meets the friendly cook, Nina, who will be of some importance later.
Ruby meets her father, Pierre, and her step-mother, Daphne. Worried about keeping up appearances, Daphne explains that in order to stay in New Orleans, Ruby must tell everyone that she was kidnapped by swamp folk at birth. Daphne then buys Ruby a bunch of new clothes WHICH ARE FROM EVERY FUCKING ERA IMAGINABLE. Like, Lifetime either has no historians in their wardrobe department or they just don’t give a fuck.
Oh, and Pierre’s also super troubled because he cries in his older brother Jean’s room ever night. Giselle explains that Jean isn’t dead, but locked up in the nearby mental hospital.
Giselle, obviously tormented by the idea of a new girl in the house, comes home and borrows a dress from Ruby’s new wardrobe after pretending to befriend her. Later, she invites Beau and another dude named Harold over for a night of fun, even though she’s the only one who ends up getting wasted from her super cute flask. Giselle drunkenly pretends to be the slut from the swamps and hams it up with Harold. Beau, well, tries to do the same with Ruby in another room.
Honestly, it’s hard for me to know how to feel about Beau. Teenage me hated book Beau because he was all high-pressure LET’S BONE NOW and I just wanted Ruby to be with her brother Paul. Lifetime Movie Beau, well, he’s charming and all but still carries a lot of that 1950s-era LET’S BONE NOW mentality that frustrates the hell out of me. Fortunately, movie Ruby has a bit of WAP for movie Beau and her scenes with him play a lot less rape-y than the book ones. I like them together.
BUT THEN, when Giselle senses that Ruby and Beau are getting on, she loses it and confronts them, then immediately throws up all the fuck over Harold. And honestly, I gotta give some major cred to the fake vomit department at Lifetime for this because that shit looked pretty real, yo.
When Ruby enters school, we get to see this crazy mix of 80s makeup, 50s sweaters and Blair Waldorf headbands that I’m actually quite down for. Also, no shit, there’s a scene with Ruby wearing this 2010’s fast fashion bejewelled headband in one scene, and I shit you not, in the very next scene, Daphne is wearing it.
Figure 1: DEFINITELY NOT EARLY 1960s FASHION, BUT NICE TRY, I GUESS?
After school, Giselle drags Ruby to some rough area of New Orleans so Harold can buy weed. While there, Ruby’s friend Annie makes a reappearance as an escort. She’s a really friendly escort and I’d totes be friends with Annie. She’s SUPER NICE. Also: sex work is real work, yo. Giselle, however, threatens to use this “friendship” against Ruby. You know, when the timing’s right.
The buying of the weed doesn’t end up leading to the “smoking of the weed” scene from the book, which I’m sure was pretty shocking in the early 90s when the book came out. Instead, we hop straight over to the sleepover scene, wherein Giselle gets Ruby to put on some old bathing costume from the 1920s. But when Ruby goes to change in the bathroom, two boys go Psycho, jumping out from behind the shower curtain on Ruby’s ass to snap a naked picture of her.
Anyway, Beau decides to take Ruby’s moment in the school bullying spotlight to ask Ruby out on a date, which they go on. Ruby, however, wont’ let Beau go anywhere past first base. Beau keeps foolishly trying, which inevitably leads us to that great scene from the book in Ruby’s new art studio.
Because this is Lifetime, we don’t get much forewarning. Beau just sees her painting and immediately starts stripping down. Unlike book Ruby, Lifetime Movie Ruby is actually kind of down for it, EVEN THOUGH THE DOORS TO THE ART ROOM ARE FRENCH DOORS COVERED BY THE FLIMSIEST FUCKING LACE CURTAINS IN THE UNIVERSE.
Ruby paints her little heart out, though nothing is made of the part where she actually starts sketching his dick. Inevitably, Daphne comes home and hears the two laughing. She tries to unlock the door, demanding to know what they’re doing in there, even though she could just FUCKING LOOK THROUGH THE DAMN CURTAINS.
Daphne confronts Ruby about her slutty antics before the family. This is where Ruby’s “friendship” with prostitute Annie comes into play, though not for a much.
Under a pile of trouble, Ruby confronts Giselle one last time, begging that they be real sisters, but Giselle plays a big Dina Fox and won’t let down.
Nina, the cook, sees Ruby’s pain and drags her into the city to see Mama Dede, a voodoo priestess who does a pretty good job of putting a curse on Giselle. The scene actually is a pretty effective one. The actress is great. The music and visuals are great. Ruby walks out terrified that she did the wrong thing.
“If things turn out the way you want, you deserve the things. And if they don’t, you deserve the blame,” Mama Dede says, cradling a python that hisses for some reason?
The next day, Giselle ends up paralyzed in a horrible car accident. Ruby blames herself but then her dad also cryptically says that it’s his fault and Ruby’s all like WTF? All while the actress to plays Daphne cries like an idiot on his shoulder WHILE THEY’RE IN THEIR LIVING ROOM INSTEAD OF AT THE HOSPITAL LIKE REASONABLE PARENTS WOULD DO.
Ruby and Nina make eyes at each other, knowing that this is a result of the voodoo. And at this point, I’m like, Isn’t this kind of Nina’s fault? She’s the grown-ass woman who brought a minor to a powerful voodoo lady to solve a bullying problem. Like, Ruby didn’t even fully consent to participate in the ritual. She was kind of pressured into it, wasn’t she?
So Ruby heads over and tells Giselle the truth, that it was her fault. Giselle says that the only way Ruby can make things up to her is by getting paralyzed too.
The Last-Minute Insane Asylum Part
With literally ELEVEN minutes left of the movie, Daphne invites Ruby to go and visit Uncle Jean at the mental hospital. Turns out, however, that Daphne runs off to the ladies room only to get Ruby committed to the mental hospital. The doctor there shows Ruby the naked picture she drew of Beau to prove it, but there isn’t even a hint of peen:
Imagine Beau actually posing for this. It’s hysterical. I died. I’m dead.
So Ruby gets carted away, shoved into a white gown and forced to play Chinese checkers by herself. A nice guy at the table beside her says he knows how to get out, but Ruby tells him to leave her alone. Then she sees a well-dressed man who she KNOWS is Uncle Jean, and she tells him her whole life story. Jean responds by shouting JIB JIB JIB over and over.
Then Ruby asks the nice guy if he can show her how to get out, which is literally just asking one of the orderlies to unlock a door that so obviously don’t have a lock on it, run PAST the ladies room and further down the hallway, then open a window and climb out. The music and direction make this scene seem like The Shawshank Redemption, but literally, the hardest thing Ruby has to do is climb a fucking crate, so yeah.
Ruby walks in on Daphne’s fancy tea with the ladies. I love this scene because she literally walks in still wearing the asylum gown and she’s looking all busted up and dirty and takes on some ATTITUDE, friends.
Long story short, Ruby properly confronts Daphne, mocking her that Pierre cheated on her. Daphne lets up on her original plan to have Pierre committed to the hospital too. Then, SURPRISE, Pierre walks in and admits that he tries to kill Jean by releasing the jib on their boat to collapse over the brother he was always jealous of?
Like, should we address this revelation? No, because Pierre loves Ruby so much and vows that jealousy will never hurt their family again even though Giselle is fucking paralyzed and NOBODY GOES TO VISIT UNCLE JEAN IN THE HOSPITAL.
Next Time on The Landry Series…
Pierre suggests that Ruby and Giselle attend a private boarding school. Ruby is unsure but we know they’re gonna go, because what the hell would we be doing in the next movie if she didn’t wanna go?
Then, Paul rings the doorbell. Ruby jumps all over him and apologizes for leaving. Then the music changes to some cheesy hopeful piano music and Ruby’s like OMG GISELLE DOESN’T KNOW ABOUT HER LONG LOST BROTHER FROM THE BAYOU!
Like she’s legit mocking her now when literally the last scene we saw of them together, Giselle vowed never to forgive her.
But Lifetime Giselle is just like WUUUUUUUUUT?
I honestly didn’t hate this movie. I mean, one can’t expect much to begin with. Nobody’s gonna waste their time actually making a top-tier drama out of this material. The writers chopped most of the irrelevant bits out of the novel and kept most of the core plot intact. Just wish it wasn’t like PG so we could get just a BIT more edge out of that painting scene with Beau because to me that scene was very integral to Ruby’s character and the fight between her wanting to be a “good girl” to stay in New Orleans, and her budding sexuality.
But yeah, the actors did what they could with the script here and I look forward to reviewing Pearl in the Mist for you all next!