The darkest and most serious in tone out of the four Landry Lifetime adaptations, Hidden Jewel backpedals from the over-the-top intrigue of the previous two movies. The film rewinds the action as well, forming a self-reflective ‘greatest hits’ journey. Returning to the bayou of the origin film, Ruby, allows us to consider just how off-the-rails things really became. The story is more personal and character-based, both for better and for worse. The main focus finally shifts for the first time from Ruby, to her daughter, Pearl. This gives impressive young actress Jennifer Laporte, who I loved in last year’s horror film Spiral, a turn in the spotlight.
This time around, we flash forward to 1982, as Pearl (Jennifer Laporte) is about to graduate from high school. Pearl keeps having recurring nightmares featuring a mysterious man in the water reaching out for help. She notices the man in a picture, and Ruby (Raechelle Banno) identifies him: Pearl’s uncle Paul (Sam Duke), who committed suicide when Pearl was only a tiny child. Ruby sees the appearance of the photo as a strange omen that danger is looming. It’s not long before the voodoo queen who cursed Giselle is on her deathbed, personally requesting Ruby “before she goes.” Ruby takes an ominous warning as confirmation of impending doom. When one of Pearl’s brothers suffers an unexpected accident, and the other becomes deathly ill, Ruby makes haste back to follow her roots. Pearl goes hunting for Ruby in the bayou, as even more tragedy threatens to crush their family…
All That Glitters remains the high point of the series, and set a very high bar for this fourth film, based partly on the strength of its final act. Hidden Jewel has the unenviable task of following up a near-perfect potential ending. Thankfully, the story might not feel essential, but it certainly feels worthy of the VC Andrews name. Similar to the Dollanganger series, the sins of the mother, and the ripple effect it has on future generations, is approached with heavy-handed metaphor. The themes are entirely appropriate and consistent with other Andrews titles. The nature of the narrative recalls many characters from the past films, never once disregarding anything that has come before.
The shifting focus to Pearl is organic to the way this story has evolved, and I remain thankful that Lifetime allowed the actors to carry over in between movies too. Raechelle Banno, even in a reduced role, is called upon to do some emotional heavy lifting. Ty Wood’s Beau remains one of my favorite characters. I loved seeing this love interest carried over into all four films. Jennifer Laporte as Pearl, and new love interest John (played by Evan Roderick) have an instant connection that longed for further expansion.
The tone isn’t altogether moody without reprieve. The same campy dialogue peppered throughout the series is also present in Hidden Jewel. One of Pearl’s love interests says “I’m like a 10, and you’re like a 6”, and Beau gets lines like “I suppose she has to grieve in her own unique bayou way.” Speaking of bayou, take a shot every time someone in this movie says the word “bayou” and you’ll be plastered on the floor. “Broken Heart Syndrome” is a very real potential illness diagnosis contemplated by Pearl. The funnier parts have instant echoes of the brilliant soap opera silliness in the middle two movies.
Hidden Jewel bookends a dark, Cajun-style melodrama, and is a boldly fitting conclusion that will please fans. It’s never as bitchy as Pearl in the Mist, nor as explosive as All That Glitters. However, Hidden Jewel gives us more time to spend with this highly dysfunctional family, and an examination into Ruby’s roots. If you enjoyed the other Landry films, this is a must-watch to see the satisfying conclusion. Whether the fifth book in the Landry series, Tarnished Gold, is still happening remains to be seen—as with most VC Andrews novels, the fifth serves as a prequel. Hidden Jewel airs Sunday, March 28th, on Lifetime.
Reviews for previous movies in the Landry series: