I watched with increasing horror the latest "Anne of Green Gables" movie. New Beginnings is supposed to be a prequel. Based on the DVD's back blurb I was prepared for the astounding fact that Canada's most beloved orphan has been recategorized as a compulsive liar with a secret living parent for this latest Ken Sullivan flick.
Granted I was already resigned to expecting wide divergence from the facts of the books after the shenanigans of the third Anne movie in the original trilogy. In that third movie, ignoring a wealth of material to choose from in the books by L. M. Montgomery, Sullivan chose instead it invent a new story wholecloth, putting Anne and Gilbert on the front lines in WWI.... but that, at least was a fairly well written story. The prequel has no such merit.
From pillar to post New Beginnings is ill-conceived anachronistic trauma juxtaposed with speeches and spectacles lifted from earlier movies. And when I say earlier movies, I do not mean solely scenes from the Anne of Green Gables films which the new child star mimics perfectly down to the very pauses, emphasis, inflections Megan Follows used in the same speeches. I also spotted a scene or two from Jane Eyre. I am fairly certain the Shirley McClain "Mrs. Thomas" character and her mill town of "Merrysville" came straight from Pollyanna for the picnic. And to be honest, I was almost surprised not to have heard Anne saying "Please Sir, can I have some more?" But perhaps that scene was mercifully left on the cutting room floor.
Aside from being a pastiche, in the most hopeless sense of the word, the story is fraught with inconsistencies. To put it kindly, the movie is not only Not Anne of Green Gables, it's not even a good story.
I was particularly moved by a scene at a railway station when Louisa confesses to stealing -- and in the next breath gushed about her destine friendship. Not exactly an apology, and no offer to repay, not even any guilt really, just: "Hey, I stole money rightfully yours and sent you to a poorhouse - clearly we were fated to be bosom friends." The lack of reality and awkwardness of this construction moved me to near tears. Secrets that would force the mills to be sold, turn into secrets that make the mills worthless. I have to admit for forcing "suspension of disbelief" this is an excellent storyline -- I still can't believe I watched it to the end. Heart-warming moments of character growth are revoked in the next scene with no explanation. Villains abound. And moreover, no matter what happens in the interim when the action picks up again they insist on remaining villains -- or starting unions -- it's unclear, but either way it's bad news for young Anne.
The framework for the younger story is a conflicted, aging Anne's struggle to write a theater play. This is the plot line where the manners and wardrobe anachronisms really bothered me most. I realize I am more sensitive than most when it comes to period costuming but SERIOUSLY???? Anne wears slacks the entire time. Okay, sure they've yanked the time frame forward to the 1940's so women were wearing slacks then -- though I seriously doubt that a 12 year old who yearned for "puffed sleeves" (c. 1875) would have worn them no matter how many script writers were lying about her age -- but even the most liberated young pant wearing female wouldn't have worn a shell blouse, over sized sweater, and trousers Everywhere. I'm sorry, it's a good look for the actress but it's just not period correct. And even if, by some inconceivable stretch of the imagination, you could justify the pants for each and every scene -- there is NO way to justify a trouser-clad female sitting with one knee up, foot in the chair, other leg curled around in the lobby of a hotel. Respectable women in that time period did NOT sit that way in public, EVER, even in pants.
Plus the unrecognizably morphed and modern Anne is really the only character remaining that L.M. Montgomery ever put a pen to. Diana Barry won't return Anne's calls, she's too busy golfing. I suspect she saw the script and decided she rather be dead than participate in such a travesty. That was certainly Gilbert's approach. Anne cries on his grave in a touching scene that reminds me of another movie I saw ...