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"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Video: Anne of Green Gables -- A New Beginning


I feel duped. Led up the garden path by the blurb on the DVD cover. Frankly speaking, I don't know why I even bothered with this. The last time Kevin Sullivan dabbled with L M Montgomery's beloved series, he "updated" it with far more changes than I was comfortable with but at least it featured most of the original cast that made the first two immensely watchable. His fourth attempt is pure sacrilege and almost a complete waste of time. It's disgraceful and more than a tad arrogant for the director to think he can "improve" on a popular series adored by generations of girls for over a hundred years. Why tamper with a winning formula?


Well, if that were the only problem here. If one feels compelled to make drastic changes to canon at least make it half decent. Nope, it's dull as a rusted nail and there's no resemblance at all to L M Montgomery's Anne Shirley. The entire premise is laughable and poorly executed.
According to this version, Anne is now in her late forties or early fifties and has turned her hand to writing plays. But she's suffering from a bit writer's block and has returned to the old house, Green Gables, to try and sell it. Her adopted son, Dominic (remember him as Cameron Daddo's son from the third installment?) is on the battlefield in France and so she angsts over his lack of communication. Gilbert, a casualty of the second world war, is no longer around to console her. Oddly enough, Diana's children, not her own come and help her clean up, when they stumble upon some of Marilla's old letters under some floor boards. One of which is a letter from a certain Mr Walter Shirley, Anne's father. Anne's father written to Marilla while Anne was living at Green Gables.
But... but... but... you say... erm... wasn't Anne an orphan, didn't her parents die of illness when she was a baby? Well-spotted... but Mr Sullivan obviously believes that the story wasn't bleak and heartbreaking enough so in his alternate version, Anne has been charmingly creative about her past. Apparently her father is still alive, on death's door and an awkwardly melodramatic story unfolds in flashbacks about how daughter and father were actually separated.
LM Montgomery turns into Charles Dickens as a homeless Anne Shirley finds herself in a decrepit workhouse for adults. The avaricious, uncharitable matron and her husband are religious caricatures of the worst kind damning her red hair as the source of all her original sin. Oh yeah... I could really feel the love. If I wasn't so determined to see it through, I would have stopped watching then and there.


Later on and for a little while there, Anne finds comfort and friendship with a business owner, Mrs Thomas (Shirley Maclaine) and her daughter-in-law. Louisa Thomas. But in a baffling turn of events, Anne becomes embroiled in a political cat and mouse kabuki between banks, unions and Mrs Thomas with different factions trying to manipulate her into using her influence with the elderly Mrs Thomas, who is stubbornly holding on to her late husband's mill. When the mill burns down, Anne is left once again to her own devices and abandoned by her friends and father again.

It's depressing... really... how it is easy for someone to indulge in revisionism. A bit of misdirected audacity... and a lot of spare change.

The only really decent thing about this piece of travesty is the girl who plays young Anne, Hannah Endicott-Douglas . While she's no Megan Follows. she has just enough spunk to turn in a good performance, occasionally overdoing the Annerisms. Everything else about the show is utterly forgettable.

I'll say something here that I don't often say... don't watch it. It's a poor excuse for an adaptation. I've seen many Jane Austen/period adaptations... and I mean "many" but none of them (even Mansfield Park 1999) are as bad as this. On second thoughts, this is no adaptation... just some pathetic attempt at reimaging in order to suck whatever's left of the milch cow dry.

4 comments:

  1. OH please, not ANOTHER Anne movie. The first two (the original and the sequel) were quite brilliant. No need for more. In my mind Megan Follows will always be Anne and Jonathan someone? will always be Gilbert. Now that was quality.

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  2. Crombie.
    Yeah, they were both great... definitive in those roles.

    But I wouldn't have minded them making Anne of Ingleside or Rilla of Ingleside rather than some alternate reality rubbish.

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  3. I don't know how you can pull this movie to shreads!! It is one of the most touching movies I have ever seen! This movie is beautiful, and shows a lot of who Anne was as a young girl, along her way finding more kindred spirits like herself. I thought it was really well done, also a great portrayal of who Anne may have become as a woman, and what important events in her life that made her who she was when she arrived at Green Gables. I recommend this movie to all Anne fans out there..its a gem! <3
    Sarah, NZ

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  4. Hi Sarah
    Apologies for not responding to your comment sooner. I don't get notifications for some reason or other.

    I think I disliked this more than most because I really liked the books. Read them all as a child and re-read them as an adult.
    I still don't understand why they had to change the entire canon to make this. There was plenty of good stuff in the original.

    Thanks for commenting.

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