Thoughts Upon Reaching the Raspberry Cordial Scene in Episode Five of Netflix’s Anne With an E

May 28, 2017 @ 5:09 pm | Filed under: Books, Television

WARNING: THIS POST IS NOTHING BUT SPOILERS. 

Okay, I tried. Give it a chance, I told myself. There’s merit in the idea of putting Anne’s brutal backstory onstage and taking an honest look at the grim reality of the late 19th-century orphan’s plight. And some minor plot adjustments are to be expected with any book-to-screen adaptation.
 
So I hung in there when Marilla sends her back to the orphanage over the lost brooch (!!) and when Matthew gallops off to retrieve Anne, incurring a head injury along the way. I hung in when Anne rejects him in the train station, until he refers to her as his daughter. (!!!) I hung in there when Matthew and Marilla decide to show Anne they really do want to keep her by changing her name to Cuthbert. (!!!!)
 
Major plot alteration after major plot alteration, I hung in there. Ruby Gillis’s house catches fire and Anne rushes in to shut doors and windows, retarding the blaze but nearly dying of smoke inhalation–what?? Marilla gets invited and subsequently disinvited to join an organization of Avonlea mothers interested in progressive education for girls…okayyyy. Montgomery addressed that topic quite deftly with Miss Stacy (who hasn’t appeared in Anne With an E yet), but I can roll with it, even if it’s significantly ahistorical for these Avonlea mums. Anne is outright snotty to Jerry the hired boy (who has an interestingly large role in this adapation). Anne and Diana see Mr. Phillips touching Prissy Andrews’s hand and Anne informs the girls this means they are making a baby. Um what?
 
I even rolled with Anne smashing the slate in Gilbert’s face—a seemingly minor change but one that indicates a major shift in the direction the series has gone with her character. Amybeth McNulty has gotten high marks for her portrayal of Anne, and I agree she’s spot on in some respects—the delight she takes in delivering her grandiloquent speeches; the raw emotion on her face when she’s feeling rejected, which is about 80% of the time—but she tends to take Anne’s passionate outbursts into vicious, tantrumy territory. And the show keeps a tight focus on the drama, failing to present the small, funny moments that show us why the Cuthberts fall in love with Anne so quickly–even Marilla.
 
And here I am halfway through episode five and I’ve had just about all I can take. Anne has spent most of this episode snarling and sniping at Marilla like she’s channeling Nellie Oleson. She’s been prone to a sassy tone throughout the series, but the ramping up to eleven in this episode is due to Anne getting her period. Which: le sigh. Marilla, appeasing her, says Anne may invite Diana to tea. Anne displays about five seconds of almost-Anneish joy before diving into a shrewish harangue, insisting that she MUST have puffed sleeves for this occasion. She’s pretty nasty about it. “Matthew, tell her!” she demands, throwing in an exasperated “ARRRRGH” for good measure.
 
And now we’re at the raspberry cordial episode, and Anne. is. drinking. it. too. They’re both getting wasted. I heaved my own Anne-Cuthbert-Nellie-Oleson ARRRGH at the screen and closed the tab. 
 
Through the first three episodes I kept asking myself how I’d evaluate this show if it weren’t an adaptation of my lifelong favorite book–if, say, this was an entirely new work of fiction. I think I’d be interested–the scenery is gorgeous, and Matthew and Marilla are terrific–but by now I’d be ready for someone to give Anne the old Plum Creek leech treatment. Or maybe we could call in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for the Puffed Sleeve Tantrum Cure.


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Comments

15 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. You are a better person than I am. You gave it a real go. I can’t stomach it. Ms. McNulty, just write a new story if you don’t like Anne the way she is and the way it was written. Don’t change our beloved heroine or her adventures or give it a new spin.

  2. Oh my gosh. I am laughing through my horror. I had heard of this adaptation, and that it flies far far away from the original. I tend not to have much patience with that myself. Some film adaptations of treasured books are quite fine, others … not so much. And there are so few, precious hours, I can’t take the time. But! I loved reading your take on it 🙂

    So thank you for sticking with it long enough to write this. Bless.

  3. I delight in your posts, and this latest one only confirns that. I have held off watching this because Anne means way too much to me to let it be ruined by a poor tv rendition…and your post just reinforces my decision. What horrible tweaks! One of my favorite conponents of the books is their LACK of drama, and more of a focus on the funny, dear, little joys (and hurts) of life.

    • Whoops, cell phone typos, sorry. “Confirms” and “components”.

  4. Anne wasn’t broke. She didn’t need fixing. A different, new version? Maybe. Adaptation? NO.

    They should have had you write the screenplay!

  5. “Why ya gotta be that way, bud?” —dudebro Billy Andrews to Gilbert, days after the death of Gilbert’s father

    Why, indeed.

  6. I got to say, I loved it (and I’m a HUGE Anne fan). There were definite parts that annoyed me (the progressive mothers group was one and the going to find Anne at the orphanage after she was sent back took FOREVER — also the changing her last name to Cuthbert), but I love this Anne and this Matthew and this Marilla. But maybe I’m biased because this Anne reminds me so much of my daughter that my husband and I sat through the whole series trying not to laugh too much at the similarities while she sits next to us. Also, I’ll look past a certain amount because the opening titles are phenomenal.

  7. Thank you. Now I know not to bother watching it – and it’s been on my “to do” list for a while now.

    Also, may I just say that I totally love the Nellie Oleson comparison? It took me a minute to register that Nellie isn’t even from the Anne books. 🙂

  8. I totally understand why you don’t like it. I also had a hard time with the new grittiness of the story but my boys, who I was worried would find it too “girly,” love it and didn’t even balk at the period episode lol. We’re in Canada so we’ve already seen the whole season and they were so disappointed when it ended! I just told myself that it’s not the book version, it’s not Road to Avonlea (which was hugely popular amongst almost everyone I know). It’s Anne for a new generation so I’ll let them have it and be glad we can all enjoy it together and that they’ll have their own memories of watching Anne (we have read the book). Also spoiler: She’s Anne Shirley Cuthbert 🙂

  9. That sounds so awful. I didn’t even like the Megan Fellows adaptation so I’m pretty sure this would horrify me. I don’t know, why do this? Why alter the book? Just…why?

    Your review made me laugh.

    Dear heavens I hope she doesn’t hear about Blue Castle ever, what if this director tried to adapt THAT?????

  10. Thank you for deciding it for me. I get sucked in by gorgeous settings and was giving this one too much benefit of the doubt. I’ll stick with the book.

    Your tags cracked me up!

  11. Amen.

    I’m reading all these glowing reviews and I’m wondering if we saw the same thing. It’s so maudlin, mawkish, melodramatic that I just started laughing. I got through all of the episodes and was guffawing when Matthew was attempting to blow his own head off — yeah, it gets that good/awful….I’ve been brainstorming for more crises: figure Matthew could develop an opioid addiction to laudanum, because that’s so au courant these days…The blaggards who’ve entered Green Gables at the end just needed waxed mustaches to deviously twirl — surely they’ll provide much psychological terror and maybe a sexual assault or two. Jerry’s there to set up a good, agonizing love triangle further along, methinks. A child dying is always good tragedy, so someone’s number is up, I am sure…Ugh…Just ugh…

    • This comment made me realize what the new Anne is– just like the 1970s Little House t.v. Show. Ma thinks about having an affair! Albert becomes a drunk! I think I’ll pass!

  12. Dear CBC:
    Anne has been read and loved and reread and adored and read again by millions of girls and women ( and yes, men and boys) since 1908. All over the world. And I can assure you, not one of those readers was simply making do with LMM’s words and characters and story while waiting and hoping for you to come along and fix it for us.

    So there.

  13. I am glad I wasn’t even tempted to watch!