Anne Frank (2001) – Rotten Tomatoes

Posted By on September 7, 2015

Even at just over three hours, a reasonably fitting runtime for this subject matter and relatively shorter runtime for a miniseries, the series remains plagued by excess material, particularly filler that especially slows down the momentum and drives unevenness amidst this should-be frequently moving story. Excess material grows less and less severe as the story progresses, yet remains all too common throughout, bloating a story of such tonal dynamicity to the point of making many of the tonal shifts jarring, and it doesn't help that there are still some spots of scenario set-up and exposition that are either glossed over or crowbarred in ever so awkwardly. These are common issues among miniseries of this type, yet with a story with this much depth, dynamicity and momentum, it can't afford to have such storytelling flaws as excessive bloating and akward, if not hurried exposition, much less the central flaw that it all leads back to. What is one of the biggest betrayals to the series' story, as well as the ultimate fault within the series is simply the fact that it pulls that old TV network (Especially ABC) bad move of being much too unsubtle, exploiting the aforementioned excessive filler and forced exposition, as well as some overbearingness in tone and a fair deal of almost inhumanly obvious pieces of dialogue or action, as manipulative forms of story and character fleshing, while not taking enough time to extensively explore depth or smooth out the edges, making for a series of limited dynamicity that just gel all that terribly well with the extreme dynamicity within the extremely human subject matter. This betrayal is hardly offensive, let alone as offensive as I make it sound, yet the series still leaves much to be desired, and were it more comfortable in its sprawling length, with more tightness of filler, more depth in exposition and, overall, more subtlty, depth and livliness, it would have quite possibly made for a sensational experience. As it stands, however, every flaw goes counteracted by truly remarkable strengths, some of which all but, if not decidedly redeem some of the flaws listed. The series is no huge masterpiece (Thanks a lot, ABC), yet it is a worthwhile saga, with high points that are sometimes actually contradictory to the faults, as well as consistent strengths that make it reasonably easy to power through the flaws.

Through all of its limitations, the series is considerably well-produced, with lively production designs that very cleverly replicate the era, as well as sharp art direction that almost brilliantly plays with scope, presenting a degree of sweep that reflects the reach of consequence throughout the areas plagued by the dreaded grip of the Nazis, yet still boasts a degree of intimacy that gives us a feel for the isolation and humanity of our characters in an actually subtle fashion that may go outweighed by the general unsubtlty of the final product, yet still makes good use of the excessive fleshing out. Another aspect that makes good use of the overwhelming filler is the direction, for although poor Robert Dornhelm finds his hands tied by the excessiveness, to where he can't bypass its generally being a mess, he still manages to absorb from all of unsbutleties and filler a surprising and undeniably considerable degree of charm that certainly doesn't redeem the unsubtlties, yet certainly helps you in somewhat accepting them until Dornhelm finally breaks through and really delivers. Now, the series has its more subtle points, yet is almost entirely rather blatant, even at its core emotional moments, and there's nothing that Dornhelm can do about that, so thus, when he needs to most, he doesn't so much succumb to the unsubtlties as much as he embraces them and use them to his advantage, meditating upon the center of the tone and enhancing the focus with the unsubtle supplements, pushing and pushing until he breaks in a genuinely non-manipulative fashion and creates intense resonance, thus making the most consequential moments tense and the most emotional moments near crushing, especially during the heartbreakingly unflinching final segment. If Dornhelm could do so much with unsubtle material, then I itch to find out what he could have done with a more cleverly-crafted script, yet I'll take what I can get and what I'm getting is a product that's more often than rather distant, yet truly impacting when emotion does carry through, and for that, credit not only goes out to Dornhelm, but his performers. As components to the unsubtlty, certain characters are written to have only so many layers, and some are not even lucky enough for their limited layers to not feel a smidge exaggerated, yet most everyone has his or her time in sun, in which they manage to transcend the flaws in the character structuring for satisfyingly contradictory depth and even a few layers. Still, it's our young "lead" (She's third down on the cast list on IMDB; What?) Hannah Taylor-Gordon who is presented with the most layered material and delivers the most in execution, nailing the initial youthful optimism and noble spirit of Anne Frank with electric charisma that draws you in, especially when you consider that this optimism shan't last. Well, sure enough, tragedy and danger falls upon young Anne Frank and plunges her into a world she much mature to in order to survive, at which point, Taylor-Gordon unveils a transformation in Frank that's so genuine, so emotional and so intensely atmospheric that it doesn't simply steal the show, but draws unexpected depth through all of the unsubtlty from the person who should have the most depth, making for a transformative and compelling lead performance by that stands as one of the keys to the series' ultimately emerging much more satisfying than not.

Bottom line, the excessive bloating - mostly through superfluous filler - and limited meditation upon smoothing out the story leave tonal shifts uneven and stand alongside writing spots and some overbearingness in tone as supplements to the series' central problem of being tremendously unsubtle, not absorbing enough depth for truly impacting resonance, yet what the series does get right, it nails with impressive results, whether it be clever production and art direction that creates a feel for the environment, or Robert Dornhelm's mostly inspired direction, which keeps the less resonant moments going with charm and strikes at opportunity of genuineness to create some undeniably strong emotional surges, and does so with the help of a myriad of strong performances, headed by an enthralling and layered Hanna Taylor-Gordon, who helps in ultimately making "Anne Frank: The Whole Story" a consistently charming, periodically resonant and ultimately rewarding extensive portrait on the timeless tale.

3/5 - Good

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Anne Frank (2001) - Rotten Tomatoes

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