Little Women, based on the much-loved novel by Louisa May Alcott (published in two parts in 1868 and 1869), is a delightful film, one of the best I’ve seen in 2019. The film about the Marsh sisters is set in 19th century New England, has an excellent cast, and is well acted and directed. The film is written and directed by two-time Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), and has been nominated for two Golden Globe Awards – best actress for Saoirse Ronan and best original score by Alexandre Desplat.
Gerwig chooses to tell the story of the four March sisters switching from scenes between when they were younger women and more mature women. This approach takes a bit of time to adjust to. Much of the film is told through the eyes of Jo. The film begins seven years into the future with Jo (the Alcott character), played by three-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Roman (Brooklyn, Lady Bird, Atonement) residing in a boarding house in New York, pursuing her dreams of being a novelist. We see her meeting with publisher Mr. Dashwood, played by Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, August: Osage County, Ford v. Ferrari). It is in New York that she meets Professor Bhaer, played by French actor Louis Garrel. Sister Amy, played by Florence Pugh is in Paris learning how to paint with her Aunt March who is played by three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Sophie’s Choice, Kramer vs. Kramer).
Laurie (though Jo calls him Teddy), played by Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name, Beautiful Boy, Lady Bird), is the grandson of the March’s wealthy neighbor Mr. Laurence, played by an unrecognizable Oscar winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation). Continue reading →
In 2018, on the 150th anniversary of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved 1868 novel, we have had two new interpretations of Little Women, one miniseries on PBS and this new film. And while I enjoyed the Masterpiece version of the book better, I did enjoy this modern retelling of the book, finding myself caring about each of the characters.
The film is directed by Clare Niederpruem in her directorial debut. The screenplay is written by Niederpruem and Kristi Shimek. The film had a budget of only $250,000, giving it the feel of a low-budget faith-based film or Hallmark movie. In contrast, this weekend’s big opener A Star is Born had a budget of $36 million.
The story is told primarily through the perspective of Jo, played with energy, and a bit over the top, by Sarah Davenport. Jo wants to be a great writer. She is ambitious and outspoken. She is generally dismissive of sister Meg, played by Melanie Stone (Mythica), who longs to get married and have children. Beth, played by Allie Jennings, who loves music and is ill in much of the film, is the most likeable sister. Amy, played by Elise Jones and as an adult by Taylor Murphy, is the youngest sister, a painter, and is often left out by Jo.
We see Jo leading theatrical productions with the girls as part of the Pickwick Club. They meet Laurie, played by Lucas Grabeel (High School Musical), an orphan who has moved in next door with his wealthy grandfather, and his tutor Brooke, played by Stuart Edge.
The girl’s mother Marmee is played by Lea Thompson (Back to the Future). She homeschools the girls and runs the home as her husband, played by Bart Johnson (High School Musical), is away at the war for much of the time. Papa March gives the girls a way to deal with their disagreements, or grievances. Marmee teaches the girls important moral values, such as forgiveness, though her influence in forming the girls is understated in the film.
The film moves forward and back in time, primarily following Jo’s story as a writer, and her relationship with a professor named Freddy, played by Ian Bohen (Yellowstone), who agrees to give her feedback on her book. Other characters in the film were Mr. Lawrence, played by Michael Flynn and Aunt March, played by Barta Heiner.
The film could have easily been rated PG, but was rated PG-13, primarily for a scene in which Jo and Meg go to prom. Too much of the film revolved around Jo, which left little time for the development of Marmee, Beth, Meg and Amy. As I mentioned earlier, Jo’s character seemed to overact, and could come off as irritating and unlikeable. The film used a lot of music, which I felt neither added to or distracted from the film.
In addition, this version of the story seems to downplay the Christian aspects of the book. Other than the singing of a few Christmas carols, reference to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Beth wearing a cross necklace, there was little Christian content.
Content concerns include a brief sexual situation and drinking at a party.
Themes include family, friendship, dreams, conflict and loss. This film would be appropriate for children ages 8 and up. Little Women is a pleasing new modern interpretation of the much-loved novel by Louisa May Alcott.