It’s not a good sign when one film is about one book and the next takes in … three. It’s also not a good sign when the producer “didn’t think there was ‘enough dramatic material for a film’ and the lead says something about how, well, the rest of the books weren’t all that good. ! Well, neither is this sequel, sweetie.
I had thought I remembered Anne of Green Gables: the Sequel, and approved, of it; I don’t think I ever saw it before, though. And I generally do not approve. If you had to condense three books into one four-hour film (mini-series, what ever), then I suppose it was well done; they kept an astonishing amount of key elements intact. While laying waste to the rest. I contend that they did not have to smoosh it all together.
Now, some of it was lovely: the characterizations of Emmeline Harris, Jen Pringle (so wonderfully evil), and Katherine-with-a-K Brooke (so wonderfully bitter and bitchy) were excellent. I couldn’t find any fault with the Mary Queen of Scots parts, or the Katherine Thaws parts (except that Anne took her home to Green Gables for Christmas, not summer break… but Anne was otherwise occupied at Christmas. I’ll come back to that.) They actually did quite a creditable job of combining the Old Mrs. Pringle/Pauline and her mother/Little Elizabeth stories; they maintained the kernel of them while altering nearly everything else…The seams showed here and there. And there were holes in the quilt.
What I most decidedly did not like about the new mushed-together story was the change in how Anne’s presentation of the diary was perceived. Rather than that being the cause for all of the Pringles to suddenly regroup and accept Anne, it was only the impetus behind Mrs. Harris’s change of heart; she required it to be kept from everyone, especially the Pringles. No, it was Mary Queen of Scots that won over the clan to Anne’s cause; and to that I say hooey. Jen Pringle’s comeuppance was done nicely; the adaptation of the fireworks-in-the-stove was fun (though why did they insist on making it a school for wealthy girls?) – but what in the name of hoolies was the whole thing with the bike and the shed and falling through the roof? Was that supposed to be a reference to Anne going through the shed roof while she and Diana were out collecting subscriptions? I feel a little unhinged for not remembering anything remotely like it in the books… and then wondering if I’m wrong. I want rather badly to give the film producers the benefit of the doubt – even though they don’t entirely deserve it.
Fred Wright was a stick. A short, annoying stick. Anne! Stop her! Don’t let Diana … Oh well. Yech. And Minnie May Barry was played, not at all nepotismishly, by a deeply annoying niece of Kevin Sullivan who spat out all of her lines in one lispy breath. And I said it before and I’ll say it again, and this time I’ll back it up – I haven’t had the chance to check it, but if Josie Pye married Moody Spurgeon in the books, I’ll go a month without chocolate. My ear she’d marry a Spurgeon.
And Anne would never, ever have invited a horde of schoolgirls to use someone else’s grounds for a picnic. Wouldn’t happen. While the Pauline’s Mother story in the book might not have made for good tv – an old lady yelling at Anne all day, and Anne’s only triumph being getting her to go out on the porch – it didn’t deserve that mangling. It was silly.
One of the things I found most bizarre was the erasure of Mr. Harrison, the Green Gables neighbor, and the transplantation of a vast number of his lines into the mouths of others: “red-headed snippet” went to Mrs. Rachel Lynde, which actually suits but which led to the unfortunate incident of the death of Thomas Lynde in the middle of a rip-roaring fight between Rachel and Marilla and Anne during which Rachel ignored his piteous cries from the next room. Not pretty – and not Montgomery. What was more bizarre was to hear things about “high-falutin’ language” and that whole section of dialogue put into Gilbert’s mouth. “And look at that sap Percival who sits around mooning the entire time. He never lets a girl get a word in edgewise. In real life she’d have pitched him.” That was weird. (And he hits her with his crop? Really? Real Anne would have murdered him.) I do understand the excision of Mr. Harrison (and the cutting of Davy and Dora – they weren’t really all that essential to the story, I suppose), I don’t have to like it.
The part of the Old Mrs. Pringle/Pauline and her mother/Little Elizabeth blended story I hated was the whole element of Captain Harris. I guess they had to give the story a Royal Gardner (sp?) without actually having Royal Gardner – making him Emmeline’s father (Emmeline being the stand-in for Little Elizabeth) tied up one more loose end in their crazy-quilt. I didn’t like him, but that’s okay… Anne didn’t behave too terribly well, I suppose, but then she didn’t with Roy either. But – – Christmas in Boston?? Seriously?? I don’t care how many grandmothers and students were there, that was not appropriate. Good grief. Anne went home to Green Gables every chance she had – I think weekends while the weather permitted, and certainly at Christmas.
I do wonder why they decided to make Anne an authoress … leading to the climactic scene where she rushes to Gilbert’s near-deathbed to shove her book’s dedication under his poor nose. Was her book supposed to be Anne of Green Gables? AND Gilbert never should have been engaged to Christine Stuart – breaking an engagement was serious business in those days. He would never have heard the end of it, and nor would Anne, and nor would Christine. Ever. He certainly wouldn’t have been accepted practicing medicine in Avonlea.
There were a couple of other things that bothered me… The language. I really don’t remember Anne saying “good grief”, though I could be wrong. I do know that when Marilla said “I suppose it’s just as well you sold the darn cow” my eyes popped wide open. “Darn” was next to “damn”, and Marilla would no more have ever, ever have said either of them than she would have danced a tarantella on the main street. There were a few things like that – bits of language that made me sit up – but what bothered me the most in a small fashion was Anne’s hair. Holy mackerel. It was HUGE in places. She’s a little thing – not nearly the height that Anne should be, but I forgave them for that long ago – and that mountain of hair looked like it would topple her – or swallow her – a few times. It was absurd. I had been thinking how well the styles of the period suited Megan Follows, and then they perpetrated those monstrosities on her… Whoof. It was hard to pay attention when I was sitting wondering whether they’d padded her hair, and if so with what, and for the love of God why…
Another distraction here and there – and especially *there* – was the use of bizarre quotes or near-quotes. In the first film I think it was Miss Stacey who said “The truth shall set you free”, and I expected the “I have a dream” speech to follow… This time I think there were a couple of them, but the worst was:
ANNE: No. It’s just that I went looking for my ideals outside of myself. I discovered it’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it. The dreams dearest to my heart are right here.
And then she picked up Toto and got into the hot air balloon to return to Avonlea, waving goodbye to the Tin Man and the Lion and the Scarecrow…
I don’t know. Surely they made enough money and garnered enough viewers to justify making faithful adaptations of all the books? Surely they had enough praise for the fidelity of Anne of Green Gables that they should have known to keep fidelity at the top of their To-Do list? And surely (*snert* – and surely… say it out loud) they got enough flack for what they changed in The Sequel that they should have known that wholesale rewriting wouldn’t go down well?
And yet it seems to be acceptable to some fans out there. I don’t get it. The man Kevin Sullivan goes from a brilliant and respectful, even loving, film of Anne to a completely nose-thumbing story that bears no resemblance in the universe to anything L.M. Montgomery ever wrote… and that doesn’t bother folk?