Mrs. Rachel Lynde Would Not Approve

When a favorite book is adapted for the screen, I try to keep an open mind. I really, really do. And there were reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the latest Anne of Green Gables movie. The casting of Anne was more age appropriate. It was filmed on Prince Edward Island. And the granddaughter of author L. M. Montgomery was involved.

ffff

But I was also smart. I knew I needed to watch with friends. And perhaps some sort of alcohol. On Saturday night, I made clam chowder and a few friends came over. Within the first few minutes, Ashley had already declared “Minus one point for Matthew falling into a puddle of manure!” Someone else declared “Half a point for it being filmed on PEI.” And then I said “Should we keep score? Do we even dare?”

For a little while, things were almost even. Not quite, but almost. And then it went straight downhill. At the end of the night, our score sheet read:

Points For: 14

Points Against: 317.5

So, what were our problems? In most cases, the casting and the characterizations just weren’t right. Matthew was too chatty and portrayed as a bumbling fool. Marilla was too soft. Anne was just way too happy. That streak of sadness and longing that is so critical to her character wasn’t there. Diana took the lead on the imagining (though she looked right.) Gilbert. Oh Gilbert. They lost 150 points for that casting decision. Rachel Lynde, Mrs. Barry, and Mr. Phillips were about the only casting decisions we thought they got right.

There were details that just weren’t right—and we can’t understand why certain changes were made. Sure, only a fan would be outraged that Anne told Marilla her parents died when she was five. But a key part of the books is that Anne had no memories of her parents, because they died when she was a few months old.

The pacing was very odd. We kept pausing and wondering how they were going to wrap things up in the time they had left. And then Anne suddenly fell through some ice and Matthew hopped on a sled to rescue her and we just lost it. At this point, I stopped the movie and got out the whiskey. I believe curse words were used. And one really shouldn’t curse while watching Anne. Rachel Lynde wouldn’t approve.

The movie ended with Matthew taking Anne back to the train station because the orphanage had found a better home for her—WHICH NEVER HAPPENED AND COMPLETELY CHANGES THE STORY. Rachel tells Marilla to chase after them. All are united in a hug and the credits roll.  Ummm, what? Of course, now that I’ve learned that they’ll be making 2 more movies, I sorta understand. But I’m still not happy.

My mom asked me if people would still recognize the story if they picked up the book. And the answer is probably yes. And she asked me if it was a good movie if I didn’t know the books so well. But I think the answer to that is no. So much cheese was crammed into a 90 minute movie. Parts of it was beautiful, but there was so little character growth. And Anne was just annoying.

I believe that classics like Anne are incredibly important, and movies can do so much to bring them to a wider audience. But please, for the love of God, respect the characters.

At the end of the movie, Ashley declared “I have to make sure my niece never sees this movie.” And then we popped in the Megan Follows version. Flawed though it is, our beloved characters are still recognizable. And I didn’t start cursing at Kevin Sullivan until the third Anne movie. . .

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8 thoughts on “Mrs. Rachel Lynde Would Not Approve

  1. I totally agree about the Gilbert casting – unbelievably awful!! But if you haven’t read the book in ages, and can’t remember a lot of details, the movie was a very sweet, family-friendly movie. I need a reread and perhaps I shouldn’t view this movie too soon afterward! 😉

    • I do agree that if I wasn’t so familiar with the story, I wouldn’t have been so upset. But that’s the risk you take when watching adaptations of beloved books. Can you imagine the potential uproar with a Betsy adaptation?

  2. Have you ever seen the old RKO movies “Anne of Green Gables” (1934) and “Anne of Windy Poplars” (1940) starring the actress who changed her professional name to Anne Shirley? They are short (less than 90 minutes) black & white films which don’t bother staying too close to the original novels.

    It’s been decades since I watched them so I don’t remember details, but I thought of them when I saw the newest “Anne of Green Gables” movie. As I watched the new movie I just kept telling myself: it’s a different story, don’t think of the book.

    This year I’ve been working on a project where I read a book or novel that a Shirley Temple movie was based on, and then I watch the movie. Sometimes the movie producers kept little more than the famous title, and changed most of the story line.

    Whether or not those who love old children’s books approve that is the world we are living in. All we can do is to keep urging people to read the original book.

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