The Magpie Reviews: Anne with an “E”
The new Netflix series “Anne with an ‘E'” seems like it would be directly catered to me. It’s a perfectly measured combination of everything I love. A cherished classic from my childhood (both the book and the popular miniseries (1985) which my sisters and I would borrow so frequently from the local library, we racked up more fines than the disc was even worth), strong feminist themes, and a palatable, family-friendly medium in which to binge with my littlest sister. It was the first show that I watched all the way through with my 7 year old sister so that it was *our special show*. I think half the reason she kept watching was because the episodes are relatively long and that meant more time snuggled in my room, delaying her bedtime.
At the end, I’ll include Paris’ hot take so you don’t have to take my word but rather that of the perfect audience L.M. Montgomery wrote for.
*Spoilers– although how can you really spoil a work that’s over a hundred years old?*
So the skeleton of the story really stays the same but I was surprised by both the pace and the details added to this more modern and realistic remake. The seven episode arc only takes us from the “you didn’t want a boy?!” entrance to a little after Minnie May is saved from the dreaded croup, so I was pretty bummed we didn’t even make it till the Lady of Shalott scene.
A lot of the beloved scenes were played out with all the nostalgia and heart it could muster. Anne was as heroic, cool under pressure, and dramatic as ever. For a first time viewer, Paris seemed as taken with the tale as any good self-respecting Heroine-In-The-Making would be. But I kind of kept getting irked with the casting.
Where the 1985 Megan Fellows‘ version seemed whole-hearted and authentic, this one felt studied and lacked Anne’s wild abandon. There were some scenes I flatly skipped over, like flashbacks of Anne’s abusive past (my sister especially does not need to see that) and Anne getting her period (lol). It seemed like it wanted to be gritty where the whole point of Anne was her ability to find wonder in it all and the lead actress I don’t think carried that.
Sorry but it’s true
I really liked this Gilbert Blythe (one review described him as a “smug-yet-woke little lothario” which is pretty accurate), played by an actor who was also in the amazing film, 20th Century Women (if you watch this movie then this review would have been worth it). This Gilbert is charming, realistic, and balances being a cutie with being just a boy trying to grow up.
But I will say, the best part about the Gilbert character was that he had to challenge himself, to tone in his pride to match Anne’s intelligence and composure, but in this version, he’s perfect right off the bat. Even his famous “Hey, carrots!” line isn’t as obnoxious as it really should be. But still, he made my little sister blush and act real unbothered with his storylines, so his childhood crush-worthiness game is strong! Although this stupid line was said with all sincerity, so …eh…
Gilbert being somehow patronizing and forward-thinking at the same time
Also a delightful part was the beautiful, aesthetically pleasing intro sequence that had an interesting title song (“Ahead by a Century” by The Tragically Hip ) that somehow works. It incorporates so many touches of nature which for me, reflected my own captivation of Anne’s love of place for Prince Edward’s Island.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Marilla is really the best, most developed heroine of the story. She sheds the expectations society puts on her as a spinster and opens her home with more love than even she thinks she can muster. This version of Marilla I think stays true to that and even made her more compelling and empathetic, as a woman who turned down romance and a sister who would do anything for her brother, even bearing the weight he should have taken. She was bae and always will be. This Matthew was just alright, completely missing that inexplicable love the mustached and muted 1985 version elicited in all of us.
They threw in a few weird details, like a little bit of danger in the big city and a house fire that Anne magically knows how to stop, and a few I thought were unnecessary, like Gilbert’s dad passing and Matthew’s potential rekindled romance, and a few that were delightful, like the little French stable boy who makes Anne appreciate her privilege of education and the cast of Avonlea residents. It erased some great stuff, like how melodramatic Anne is about her red hair to the point she feels like she needs to dye it or her imagination (this version made her tendency to make invisible friends more of a tragic coping mechanism that was hard to watch).
In all, I give this series a 6.5 out of 10. It’s a fun watch but this Anne has nothing on Megan Fellows. Where the other Anne makes you yearn to be a kindred spirit with her, this one seems like that weird girl who was obsessed with talking about her period and talking to herself in a mirror. I feel no loyalty to her like I do with Dirtbag Anne Shirley. But if it made Paris happy and more willing to sit through a 1985 movie with me, I’ll take it!
Me: P, did you like the show?
P: Yeah but Anne was too chatty.
M: What did you like most?
P: When Anne saved the baby.
M: What about Gilbert?
P: *stamps foot and runs away* STOP IT, MAGGIE.