I had the opportunity to see the new Annie movie back in October while in Chicago for a writers conference + film festival.
I almost purposely skipped the showing because I mean, how can you recreate ANNIE?!
I've always loved the 1982 version (aside from the climbing up the bridge part, that always freaked me out) but decided last minute to attend and sat toward the back of the dark theatre. Which was a good thing...because I sobbed through the entire movie.
From an adoptive mom's perspective, it was hard to watch because it pulled my heart right out of my chest.
I kept thinking about our boys whom we adopted at an older age (Ezekiel, 6 and Abreham, 13) and how they must've felt as they sat there in the orphanage. I could hardly get through the song Maybe without an ugly cry. My throat hurt from holding it back and the lady next to me looked uncomfortable as she glanced at me from the corner of her eye. Wish she had a tissue.
But oh there was such hope in Annie's voice! "Maybe he reads, maybe she sews. Maybe she's made me a closet of clothes..." She's not given up and helps the girls in the house with her to not give up, either. Granted their situation is different than ours and are in a foster home, hoping for their biological parents to come get them. But like those girls, our boys had such hope of having a life outside the orphanage.
They sat and sat and sat, and still had such HOPE for a family!
The movie swims along the same current as the original, though there are obvious differences, the most obvious having a racially mixed cast. I love that Annie is now an African American little girl.
It cracked me up seeing a red-headed girl tap dance in class, toward the beginning of the first scene. The students all groaned and rolled their eyes. I actually love tap dancing but it just set the movie up for going in a different direction, a new updated version while still honoring the integrity of the original.
The music was unbelievable, the choreography made me want to wipe my tears away and get up and dance along (probably good I didn't, that've been a bit awkward). I was still humming a few of the songs days later, wishing so badly I didn't have to wait to buy the Soundtrack.
In this new version, the writers focused (more than before) on the fact that sweet Annie was abandoned and she continued looking and waiting for their return. It was just another thing that broke my heart. The truth of it is so hard and know it well since our Imani and Elsabet were both abandoned at birth. I know as they grow older, this is something we will have tears over and questions about.
Already at four years old, Imani asks about her "Ethiopia Mommy" from time to time. In fact the other day she asked when we could go back and see her. I gathered little Imani on my lap and told her once again the details of her adoption story and that sadly, we wouldn't be able to find her. That instead, we could just pray that we'll get to hug her in heaven someday.
I wish I could give her more than that.
At one point, the incredibly talented Quvenzhané Wallis, (who plays Annie) is at a benefit and sings a song about the opportunity she has being with Mr. Stacks (the updated Daddy Warbucks - see her sing it here). I just watched it again and tears are streaming down my face.
It's such like real-life adoption: One moment our children are settled, embracing our love and all is well. And then suddenly and unexpectedly, it flips.
After Annie sings the Opportunity song, she is asked to read something and reality pours over her as she runs off in tears, her hurts very much at the surface, reminding her who she really is. That the rest must be an illusion.
Like the movie, in real-life adoption one moment everything is beautiful and hearts are full... and so abruptly the sadness or trauma creeps back in and catches them off guard. This quick switch from being part of a loving family to having a myriad of feelings run through their little hearts really hits home (our experience here and here).
You know the rest of the story...a fake mom and dad step up and take her away and Daddy Warbucks/Will Stacks realizes too late he can't live without her. And it all ends happily as all of New York seems to be singing and dancing right along with them. Oh and Miss Hannigan repents and re-invents herself. That made me smile.
All in all, the movie is fantastic. Imani and even baby Elsabet are obsessed with the soundtrack (much to their brothers chagrin), though they have yet to see it.
I definitely recommend the movie to all families...even those who have adopted. I will say though, you know your family best and if you think it'd be too hard for your adopted kids, use your best judgement.
Over our way, our kids have watched the trailer over and over and all want to see the movie (yes, they have seen the original). We will just be making sure we take the time to have conversations before and after the film, in case they want to talk and have tears about any of it.