Top critical review
One star for the actors who tried really hard against this awful script and nonsensical changes
December 9, 2016
I'll admit it - I'm a huge fan of the Anne series of books. I fell in love with this book when I was 9 and was, initially, disappointed with the Kevin Sullivan rendering of 1985 because adaptations are rarely as good as that which unfolds through the unfettered lens of our own imaginations. Eventually, I came to appreciate the TV miniseries and have a soft spot in my heart for the translation from page to screen which Sullivan et al accomplished. So, it was with mixed feelings that I viewed the remake. First, let's say what is good - the little girl who plays Anne is adorable. She's charming and ebullient. If her portrayal is off-key, I lay that blame on the writers, not her performances. She's not a perfect actress by any means, but she is, indeed, a joy to watch. The scenery is gorgeous and the cinematographer did full justice to the beauty of PEI.
The rest of this review contains spoilers.
Now, for the bad. The characterizations are off and by off, I mean way off. Even at the beginning, Marilla is soft, maternal in her treatment of Anne. When Anne explodes in response to Rachel Lynde's forthright critique of her appearence, Marilla chides,she scolds, but you never get the feeling that she is genuinely outraged and mortified to her very marrow by this outrageous loss of self control. The whole point of the story is that as much as Anne needs a home, Matthew and Marilla need someone like Anne in their lives. In the books, Marilla gradually softens, unbends and shows Anne that she cares in her own gruff manner. In this adaptation, Marilla is already almost empathetic. Marilla was never meant to be purposefully unkind, but she wasn't as soft as fuzzy as the portrayal here. Second glaring misstep - Matthew. Why, for heavens sake, the scene with the pig? I understand the writers wish to infuse humor, but the book is full of gentle humor. Matthew is laconic, taciturn. He feels deeply, he says little. Richard Farnsworth was able to convey both of these key attributes on screen, demonstrating that it can be done. It was due to his character (taciturn, terrified of girls and women) that he *didn't* ask Anne immediately why she was there instead of a boy. It is equally difficult to understand why the new version of Matthew would *not* immediately ask this. And, since they changed Matthew so dramatically, they changed the circumstances of how Matthew obtained the dress with puffed sleeves, a scene which was one of the comic gems of the book. ("Twenty pounds of brown sugar, indeed!")
This portrayal of Anne herself - in the initial scenes after she finds out that she isn't to stay at Green Gables, she is heartbroken, yet sensible enough to know she shouldn't fall in love with her new surroundings since it's clear that Marilla does not intend to keep her. Yet, n this adaptation, Anne continues to explore Green Gables and its environs, even though she understands she's t be sent back. These actions are so inconsistent with the character that it's truly torture to watch. Anne had gumption - she was sensible, she was a worker. I can't imagine the real Anne shying away from eggs. Nothing in the books indicated that she would behave thus or that she would fob off her milk pail carrying duties on Matthew so that she could go look at scenery.That's a ridiculous liberty. She was dreamy and imaginative, but she was also a hard worker and very smart. So none of this behavior makes sense except to add in "comic relief" and just came off as unconvincingly modern.
Just incredibly disappointing that writers still don't understand that people love a source material because it's actually really good and maybe they should try to make as few changes as possible to the integral personality traits of the characters.
As a last note (and this is rather an unfair comparison), I really miss Hagood Hardy's instrumental genius. The soundtrack to this newest adaptation was passable, but not outstanding. Hardy's sound track for the original miniseries was so evocative and lush, the bland music which accompanied this version doesn't have the same ability to connect the viewer with the story, augmenting the drama on screen like an auditory emotional cues, enhancing the experience subtly, yet indelibly.