Well, well, well. After a six-month hiatus, I am finally getting back to my Top 15 (non-Austen, non-Dickens) Literary Adaptations series. One of the reasons for my procrastination here (boy, am I good at procrastinating - just ask anyone from my family!) has been indecision as to the order in which to put the movies in this series. Already, I've mucked things up - in hindsight, I should have put Pollyanna at #14 The Inheritance at #15, The Railway Children at #13. . . but maybe I should stop fumbling around and just get on with the review already! :P It's been long enough coming!
~No. 13 - Pollyanna~
Shortly after finishing the wonderful 2000 adaptation of The Railway Children, the same director and production team set about making a screen version of another beloved children's classic - Eleanor H. Porter's Pollyanna. It first aired in the UK in early 2003, and about a year later in the US.
Writing plot summaries is boring, so this time I'm going to cheat and borrow the synopsis from the Masterpiece Theatre Pollyanna page:
Pollyanna Whittier goes to live with her wealthy but bitter aunt after the tragic death of her father. Pollyanna shares a game her father taught her -- the 'Glad Game' -- in which everyone can find a silver lining in even the darkest cloud, and her sunny nature, good humor and determination to look on the bright side of life prove to have an astonishing effect on those around her.Pollyanna and Jimmy Bean (Ben Thornton)
With the help of her orphaned friend, Jimmy Bean, she casts her spell on the grumpiest townsfolk of Beldingsville -- including the cynical shut-in Mrs. Snow, the morose millionaire Mr. Pendleton and the enigmatic Dr. Chilton. And Pollyanna masterminds the romance between her Aunt's maid, Nancy, and the handyman, Tim. It is only Aunt Polly, who cannot bring herself to embrace Pollyanna's innocence and joy.
But all is not straightforward in Pollyanna's war against pessimism, since she must overcome a personal tragedy that threatens to banish "glad" from her vocabulary forever.
It's a delightful family film. If you love other children's classics such as Anne of Green Gables, The Railway Children, or Heidi, you'll enjoy this. Georgina Terry does very well as the young heroine, and all of the grown-up actors are good, too, especially Amanda Burton as Aunt Polly. Period drama lovers will spot several familiar faces - including Kenneth Cranham, David Bamber, and the always-lovely Pam Ferris.
It's so rare to come across a children's film like this these days - gentle, quiet, warm, something you'd be happy to watch over and over with children or younger siblings. My three littlest sisters love this - it's one of my two-year-old sister's favourite movies! :-) But it will keep older viewers entertained, too - it's a very well-made production, the acting is uniformly good, and the script is funny and engaging. A movie for viewers of all ages to enjoy.
It will also bring a sense of nostalgia to anyone who read the book as a little girl. I read Pollyanna so many years ago now that I unfortunately can't compare the book with the movie. By all accounts, however, this is one of more faithful versions of Pollyanna around (much moreso than the 1960s Hayley Mills version, for instance). Probably the only major change from the book is the change of setting - from New England in America, to the "real" England across the Atlantic.
I'm going to go a bit off-topic here so please bear with me: I think it's sad that the majority of young girls today seem to be missing out on so many of the classic girls books from the late-18th to early-19th centuries - books like Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women. . . in fact, most of the books listed here. Of course I don't expect that all little girls are going to be rabid bookworms like I was, but still. . .
I can think of two reasons for the current dearth of readers of these books: 1.) people (including young girls) just don't read as much as they used to, and 2.) classics like those mentioned above - detailing the lives of young heroines living in a much simpler, more innocent age - are deemed increasingly irrelevant to today's generation of preteen girls.
Little girls are being forced to grow up so quickly these days. 12 is the new 18 - that is, if being 18 is supposed to entail dressing in tight-fitting, skimpy clothes, and being overly concerned about clothes, personal appearance, and boys (I would argue that it doesn't). Through so many pressures and influences - encompassing the culture, the media, and their peers - little girls are being robbed of their girlhood.
Girls like myself who have been homeschooled and raised in a protected, nourishing environment, usually manage to avoid being subjected to most of this (young ladies, we have so much for which to be thankful to our parents!). Ever noticed how most homeschoolers tend to be bookworms? :-) Partly thanks to the emphasis on good literature within most homeschool circles, a lot of homeschooled children develop an appreciation for good books from an early age.
Whoops, I didn't realise my little soliloquy had grown to over 3 paragraphs! What all of this boils down to is: I'm sad that a generation of girls are growing up without knowing any of the books that I knew and loved as a little girl. They'll be all the poorer for not having known Anne Shirley or Laura Ingalls or Pollyanna Whittier. That's not to say it's the girls' fault - I think most of the blame lies with their parents and others responsible for their education (and when I say education, I don't just mean "school").
And this was supposed to be a short, simple movie review, haha! Well, if you have any thoughts to share on this issue, please leave a comment.
Getting back to the proper subject of this post: you can watch Pollyanna on Youtube (just search for "Pollyanna Part 1"), but the audio is very poor quality. I'd encourage you to get it on DVD, especially if there are any little girls in your life with whom you could share it. :-)