(By the way, most of my screencaps came from this page.)
To begin with, this miniseries (six hour-long episodes that you can watch on YouTube--a link is at the end of the post) is actually the sequel to a previous BBC miniseries (Anne of Green Gables), made in 1972. However, the first one is considered "lost" according to IMDB and you can't watch it anywhere. Sad, that. (Absolutely. Very sad. Tragic. Also horrid. Horrid. And with our mother-of-pearl-- okay, I'll stop.)
Kim Braden plays Anne Shirley, and though she doesn't own the role the way Megan Follows does, I was quite pleased with her performance. Somehow I think she did a better job of portraying the Anne of the later books than Megan did. (I don't like to refer to actors by their first names so familiarly, but I also don't like typing out the whole name every single time.) Megan does a spot-on job of portraying the Anne-of-the-first-book, but I honestly think Kim Braden's portrayal is a little closer to the book-Anne of Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island. She seems a little more dreamy and romantic and less... modern. More old-fashioned. Come on, people, don't hate me for this. I'm allowed to like more than one interpretation of a character, aren't I? Aren't I? (Please say yes.)
Christopher Blake as Gilbert Blythe, however, was another story. Er, wait, let me rephrase that. Christopher Blake masquerading as my beloved Gilbert Blythe was another story. Seriously, this ridiculous phenomenon was almost as bad as Nick Jonas impersonating Marius Pontmercy, and that's saying a lot. It was ridiculously difficult for me to find a picture of him (which is probably a good thing, in a way) but here you go.
See? Told ya so. That's not Gilbert. And it wasn't just his looks that bothered me. His whole attitude was frustrating. The entire theme of the miniseries, so it seemed, was that Anne had her head in the clouds too often and needed to be brought thumping back to earth so that she could marry Gil and keep house and shoo the chickens out of the cow pen. (Somebody stop me before I start ranting about the last scene...) While Anne is, admittedly, a little too melodramatic, that's the way she's supposed to be. We love Anne's romantic ideals. And when Anne finally realizes that her romantic ideals have been right under her nose the whole time... that's when everything comes together in a gloriously happy ending. But not in this movie. In this movie, Gilbert spends most of his time trying to convince Anne that Being Romantic is not a good idea. And not in a hilarious pitching-and-mooning way, either.
|Seriously. This picture is creepy.|
Speaking of characters I didn't like (I'll get to the positive parts eventually, I promise),
Eulalie Bugle Barbara Hamilton was an atrocious Marilla. Boring, coarse and possessing a voice resembling that of a foghorn, she quite literally bulldozed poor Marilla's wonderful character. Bah, humbug.
Madge Ryan as Mrs. Lynde wasn't horrible, but she certainly wasn't great, either. Frankly, after seeing Patricia Hamilton's performance in the Sullivan films, I've become quite prejudiced against any other Rachel Lynde. No one else can hold a candle to her amazing interpretation. This Mrs. Lynde was just kind of annoying.
Jan Francis as Diana Barry was boring, plain and simple. She was rather sweet and there wasn't really anything about her that I actually disliked, but she didn't have any of the real flavor of Diana's character. You didn't get the same sense of kindred-spirit-ness between her and Anne as you do in the other movies (all right, all right, I really need to stop comparing).
Nicholas Lyndhurst amused me greatly as Davy Keith, but he was NOT the Davy of the book. Davy-of-the-book is supposed to be six, for one thing, not thirteen, and he's also supposed to be much more mischievous and dirty and prank-playing. He is also not supposed to have an atrocious 1970's haircut, but that's the fault of the costume department, not the actor. Oh well, at least he was IN this movie...
Oh, and those of you who have seen David Copperfield (1999) might just recognize Davy in another role he's played... heeheehee. (Dora was included in this film as well, but she was so boring she isn't even worth mentioning. Cute, but boring.)
Kathleen Byron certainly looked the part of Miss Lavender Lewis, but she didn't quite seem genuine to me. Her imaginative "pretendings" seemed silly and contrived, not sweet and beautiful as they are in the book. it was nice that Charlotta the Fourth was included, but she was so goofy and silly-looking and her name wasn't even right! Charlotte, indeed. That was one case where spelling it with an E was completely inaccurate. Ugh, I felt the whole time as if Echo Lodge in its entirety were being mocked. Don't get me started on the whole Stephen Irving thing, either.
Speaking of Stephen Irving, Paul Irving was... laughable. Utterly laughable. One of my favorite characters in the book was again made ridiculous. Now, I was at first quite pleased that all these people had been included in the movie (people who weren't included in the Sullivan films, I might add, bah humbug) but when their characters were so badly portrayed and twisted and convoluted &c. &c., I found myself feeling Quite Disgruntled. Mr. Harrison WAS included, but though his character followed the book pretty closely, it didn't seem quite right somehow. I was left with a sort of "blah" feeling.
Let us move on to a happier subject. I was delighted that the storyline followed Anne to Redmond and then (for a little while at least) accurately portrayed what happened there. The exterior of Patty's Place wasn't cute and sweet like I had imagined, but the interior left little to be desired (despite the poor lighting of a low-budget 1970's TV movie). Oh, and by the way, Jane Andrews' character was exceedingly likable. The screenwriters took some liberties with her character, because in the books it's Priscilla Grant and Stella McSomethingorother who board with Anne at Redmond, but I guess they wanted to have a familiar Avonlea character to keep Anne from being too homesick. It's not an unforgivable story change, and Jane was portrayed as a real sweetie. I liked her. (There. I said something nice at last.)
And now I'm going to say something nice again, because I absolutely loved Sabina Franklyn's portrayal of Philippa Gordon. (You may have seen her as Jane Bennet in the 1981 Pride and Prejudice, by the way.) She didn't quite look like the Phil I'd pictured when I read the books, but she was extremely pretty (as she's supposed to be) and her voice was so pretty. I just loved listening to her talk-- she captured the whole sweet-and-silly thing quite nicely, and you still got the feeling that she was quite genuine and real under all her frivolous exterior.
So why under the sun, then, did someone as lovely as Phil marry someone as idiotic as Jonas Blake? I really, really liked Jonas' character in the book, but Jonas-of-the-miniseries came across as a sniveling moron who couldn't make up his own mind. And not in the adorable way that Phil can't make up her own mind, I might add.
Speaking of sniveling idiots, I was quite disgusted by Roy Gardner. At first, I was thrilled that he was included because I never liked Morgan Harris anyway, but I was quickly put off again by his... blah-ness, for lack of a better word. Now maybe this was done on purpose to make Gilbert look better, but that's not the way Roy is supposed to be. Roy is supposed to be melancholy and inscrutable and murmur romantic compliments about violets in Anne's ear as he helps her on with her coat. He is not supposed to be a pouting five-year-old with a domineering mom who scorns Anne for being an orphan.
Speaking. Of. Which.
Roy did indeed have an overbearing mamma in the book, but there was no subplot with her regarding Anne's background and Mrs. Gardner most certainly did not drop in unannounced at Green Gables. The idea! It would have been much better if they had had, y'know, the original book scene with Mrs. Gardner and Dorothy's call at Patty's Place with the Squashed Chocolate Cake. (Love that part. Love it, love it.) And moreover, there was never any question about Anne's family and whether they were horse thieves or baronets. In Anne of the Island, she did go and visit her birthplace (and obtain a packet of letters belonging to her mother) but it wasn't in order to prove anything-- and she definitely wasn't accompanied by Gilbert. The nerve.
Now, there were indeed some scenes I enjoyed, particularly the one in which the girls attempt to chloroform the cat. "Him was a nice old pussins, him was..." hehehe.
The part with Mrs. Morgan's unexpected visit and Anne's red nose was done exceptionally well, I thought. It was quite funny when everyone was trying to entertain Mrs. Morgan. Anne fell through the roof nicely, too (with no bedsheets or where's-the-fires involved).
And then Gilbert got typhoid and Anne realized she loved him, and she also realized that the grass didn't look like a green velvet carpet but instead looked only like grass, and boom, it was over. And I was left feeling quite... let down.
There were nice parts, I'll grant you, and the story did stick pretty close to the book (more so than Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel did) but "the pinch of salt was left out". I can't remember which Anne book that quote comes from, but I do know it's an Anne quote. The spice and flavor and happy-all-over feeling that I associate with Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel wasn't there. I know I've said this before (and I will continue to say it until the end of my days) but the real test of a movie's greatness is not how closely it sticks to the book, but rather how well it captures the spirit of the book. And Anne of Avonlea... didn't.
Would I recommend it? Truth be told, yes I would. If only so that you can have something with which to compare The Sequel. I'd give this five stars out of ten. Not awful, but certainly not great. Not without its merits, but not on my favorites list. So go watch it on YouTube if you have six hours to spare, and then do please come back and tell me what you thought. Because I want to know.