Lifetime Film Review: V.C. Andrews’ Ruby (dir by Gail Harvey)


This time is the 1950s and the place is Louisiana.  Ruby Landry (Raechelle Banno) is a teenage girl who lives in a shack out on the Bayou.  She’s never known her mother.  She’s never known her father.  She does know her Grandmere, Catherine (Naomi Judd), who is a Bayou witch.  

Ruby might not know much but she knows how to paint.  One day, the owner of a New Orleans art gallery just happened to be driving by when he spots Catherine selling Ruby’s paintings on the side of the road.  He’s impressed, even though the paintings aren’t really that impressive.  He buys the paintings and then hangs them in his gallery.  Ruby can’t wait until she graduates high school so that she can move to New Orleans with her boyfriend, Paul Tate (Sam Duke).  Except … uh-oh!  Grandmere explains to Ruby that Paul is actually her half-brother so no, they can’t run off together.  That’s incest and that might be okay for the Ozarks but folks in the Bayous got standards.

As long as secrets are being shared, Grandmere also explains that Ruby’s father is a wealthy man named Pierre Dumas (Gil Bellow) and that Ruby actually has a twin sister, who we later learn is named Gisselle (and who is played by Karina Banno, the twin sister of Raechelle Banno).  Having dropped a lot of information on Ruby, Grandmere promptly dies.

Ruby inherits Grandmere’s shack and she still has the money that she made off of her paintings, which means that Ruby is now one of the richest people in the Bayou.  However, her alcoholic grandfather still wants to sell her to a local businessman so Ruby flees the Bayous, heads to New Orleans, and decides to live with Pierre!

Pierre is ecstatic to discover that he has another daughter.  Pierre’s wife (Lauralee Bell) is a bit less excited about it.  And Gisselle claims that she could hardly care less about her Bayou sister.  In fact, it seems like Ruby’s only ally is the housekeeper who, it turns out, knows all of the best voodoo priestesses in New Orleans….

Now, believe it or not, all of that happens within the first 30 minutes of RubyRuby is not a boring film.  In fact, one could claim that there’s almost too much going on.  No sooner has Ruby moved into the house than she’s hearing mysterious weeping coming from one of the bedrooms.  No sooner has Ruby started high school in New Orleans than she’s being set up for humiliation by her twin sister.  As soon as Ruby draws one of her classmates naked, you know that she’s going to end up in an asylum where a doctor will demand to know if she’s familiar with the term nymphomania.  Ruby is a big and messy film, one that embraces the melodrama with so much enthusiasm that it’s easy to overlook that the film really doesn’t make much sense and that a lot of the plot is dependent upon people not being particularly smart.

Ruby is one of the many recent Lifetime films to be adapted from a V.C. Andrews novel.  Now, of course, V.C. Andrews didn’t have anything to do with writing Ruby.  She died long before the book was written.  Instead, Ruby was written by ghost writer, pretending to be Andrews.  The plot ticks off all of the usual V.C. Andrews tropes with such precision that it’s hard not to be both impressed and amused.  White trash?  Yep.  Incest?  Yep.  Rich relatives?  Yep.  More incest?  Yep.  Big house?  Yep.  Twins?  Yep.  If you made use of a random V.C. Andrews plot generation, it would probably give you something similar to Ruby.

Ruby is silly fun.  It doesn’t reach the heights of Flowers in the Attic films but it’s still better than the films that Lifetime made about the Casteel family.  It was also the first of four films about Ruby and her family.  I’ve got the other three on the DVR and I’ll be watching and hopefully reviewing them before the month ends.