I was on a long car ride yesterday when I decided to watch the Samantha movie to kick off my new post series, A Filmmaker Reviews AG Movies! This year, I've learned a lot more about how to make a movie, so I thought it would be fun to revisit the AG movies and see what they did right and wrong in the technical department.
WARNING: THIS CONTAINS A LOT OF FILMMAKER RANTING!
What they got RIGHT:
-The acting was mostly good. I particularly liked Kelsey Lewis's performance as Nellie. On the other hand, there were some people, such as Samantha's classmates, who were trying too hard.
-Half the time, they showed what was going on and didn't tell it. Like for example, the pain on Samantha's face when Nellie asked about her parents. But sometimes...
What they got WRONG:
-When they brought across a point by showing and then told right after. For example, right after Samantha showed she was upset about her parents, she said "my parents died". There was a lot of other times where there was unnecessary dialogue to bring across a point as well.
-To quote one of the script feedback pages I got, "The story, from the get-go, does not feel like a "story," but rather a series of events." I get their intentions, but there was no real plot- just a montage of events that have little-to-no correlation to each other.
-Even my eleven-year old self noticed this: the editing was not the best. Sometimes they played audio from one scene on top of another to bring a close to it, and that's not the best way to end a scene. One of the best bits of writing advice I've ever gotten was "get in late, get out early", and I don't think the screenwriter Marsha Norman truly understood that.
-It jumped around too much, which limited character development. When it skipped a few months to Cornelia's wedding, it showed Samantha giving her mother's veil to her, but literally five minutes before she was complaining about Cornelia. I'd rather have the movie show character development rather than 'oh she's like this now'.
Conclusion: It was a pretty fun movie as an American Girl fan, but as a filmmaker who's nitpicking, it's okay. There's some faults, which the target audience won't notice, but if there's one thing I could tell Marsha Norman and director Nadia Tass, it's to not undermine character development and the basis of a story just because the target audience is 9 year old girls.
Old Rating (circa 2016): 9.5
New Rating: 6