When Nice Girl Rueben Tweeted news about a remake of the classic literary series Anne of Green Gables today, I was giddy. GIDDY! I adore the books and the first two movies from Sullivan Entertainment have been a staple of my home entertainment library for decades. But as I read the article at The Hollywood Reporter, the giddiness quickly changed to dismay.
You read that correctly. Modern, contemporary, and updated are the watchwords for this incarnation of Anne Shirley and her life from Breakthrough Entertainment and Montgomery’s granddaughter, set to begin production in Canada next summer.
Now I’m not someone who opposes remakes on principal. I think that there are stories that can be retold every generation or two, taking advantage of new technology and finding new audiences. Presenting familiar stories in unfamiliar settings is also appealing to me (I once wrote a treatment of Shakespeare’s King Lear as a 1940′s gangster movie for an English class). I even like the idea of Anne’s story being filmed now, some 25 years after Megan Follows broke a slate over Jonathan Crombie’s head and nearly drowned while quoting “The Lady of Shallot”. But bringing the precocious, practical yet dreamy orphan into the 21st century feels like a mistake. A huge one. Maybe even bigger than Sullivan’s third movie, released in 2000, which was dreadful and bore no resemblance to Montgomery’s version of Anne.
Perhaps the people involved were inspired by the BBC’s updated version of Sherlock when deciding to bring Anne into the world of cell phones and, well, girls wearing pants. Produced with the same careful eye toward balancing modern technology and Victorian (or in Anne’s case, Edwardian) style, it’s possible this remake could be something special, yet the vibe I got from the people quoted by THR feels more like they were motivated by greed rather than artistic vision. When half of the article is dedicated to chronicling how Montgomery’s family felt cheated out of profits from the ’80s and ’90s, it’s hard to accept their protestations that this new incarnation is about honoring the author and her legacy.
All of Montgomery’s heroines – Anne, Emily, Kilmeny, Sara, Marigold - possess an innocence that is anachronistic in the 21st century. Much of the charm of her stories comes from a dreaminess shared by her heroines, coupled with the bucolic rural settings that allow her characters to spend so much time in nature. Can those qualities be captured in a contemporary retelling?
Read the full THR piece here, then tell me, what do you think about this idea? Do you support a 21st century Anne Shirley? Or are you worried she’ll be unrecognizable? And who wants to drop everything and rewatch the 1985 movie with me?