L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables The Good Stars
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Anne Shirley is thirteen years old and finds that life in Avonlea is never simple. Torn between her free-spirited nature and her own perceived need to become sensible, Anne finds that the journey toward her goal is fraught with confusion and more than a few unfortunate yet amusing mishaps in L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables The Good Stars.
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Unfortunately, we recently tuned into the new PBS production of "Anne: The Continuing Tales." This was a monumental disappointment that I can only liken to "The Godfather Part III." Although the Anne stories written by Lucy Maud Montgomery continue through her marriage, career and children, the producers of this movie discarded any relationship to the charming original stories or the memorable original characters. They merely borrowed the names of the characters and then created a highly unbelievable scenario that bore no hint of continuity between the fiercely independent, fiery, patriotic, and highly moral Anne, her bosom buddy Diana, or her sweetheart Gilbert. Throw in a baby who cries throughout the entire video, some unbelievable WWI scenarios and politically correct but anachronistic "anti-war" sentiments, and you end up with a despicable mess.
If you loved the original books or videos, STAY FAR AWAY from "The Continuing Story" so that you don't taint your fond memories. And if you haven't already seen the videos of "Anne of Green Gables" or "Anne of Avonlea," then do whatever it takes to see them as soon as possible. (Don't wait for a rainy weekend!)
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.