Little Women Enthusiast Reviews PBS’s Masterpiece Adaptation

A little disclaimer: being an aspiring filmmaker, I tend to look at a movie most critically and judge it by its content, presentation, what emotions it evokes, and its takeaway. I do like to be truthful in my views, however I will attempt not to make the following as blunt as my original draft. 😊 Do remember, this is only my personal opinion.

Second disclaimer: this review DOES include spoilers.

Costumes

There were two or three scenes showing the girls in corsets. Firstly, the March sisters did not wear corsets that early into the book. Secondly, the ones used are from the wrong time-period. Meg’s corset was styled from the late 1700s while Jo’s corset was that of a Victorian design. That’s a 100-year gap between the two, and neither were exactly accurate. Furthermore, they were not wearing the corsets correctly. This caused the corset lines to be seen through some of the dresses, also revealing that they were not wearing corset covers.

Regarding the dresses, I’d have to say that most of them would be considered accurate, however, many were ill fitting, which would have been unusual considering that the Marches did their own sewing and tailoring.

In two different scenes, Jo can be seen wearing some sort of odd floral bathrobe, which does not say “1860s.”

In the boating scene, Miss Vonn is wearing a blue, English 1770s styled gown, and even though she was from England, it was established in the book that her family was wealthy, therefore I doubt she would have to wear a 90-year-old dress.

Makeup 

The makeup director seemed to know little of historical beauty. Each of the March sisters were in more modern makeup styles, including mascara, eye liner, lipstick, and blush, especially little Amy. While some of these beauty enhancers had been used subtly in the 1860s, none of the March girls would be wearing it around the house, and especially not to bed. Also, Laurie was for some reason wearing noticeable makeup.

Acting

The main issue with this adaptation perhaps was that the acting was over rehearsed and, in some cases, insincere. I may be quite spoilt by the 1994 version where every single line was performed brilliantly and believably, however good acting should be a main focus in the creation of any film, and one might say that this version fell a little short.

I found some flaws in the portraying of the characters, as well. Timid Beth is too scared to even enter Mr. Lawrence’s front gates, though eventually gets up some courage to go into the house and sit at the piano. She is frightened when Mr. Lawrence tells her to stop, however is smiling without a care in the same scene when this stranger of an old man comes to sit and listen to her play. She doesn’t even appear to be nervous. I know I would be!

The relationship between Jo and Amy seems much harsher than in the book or any other version. One could even say that Amy was plain evil toward Jo and the rest of her family, and much more ill-mannered overall. Her actions, replies, and glares were certainly on the modern level of bad behavior. Furthermore, I found that Jo attacking Amy and slapping her in the face was overly dramatic.

Considering the filmmakers had three entire hours to fill with the book’s contents, I felt that there were not enough moments of true loving connection involving the March family. Marmee appeared as a very independent woman who seemed to know little of her daughters’ true feelings and oft gave poor advice at the wrong times (like in the attic after Amy burns Jo’s manuscript).

Music

The soundtrack trilled of modern breathy humming and ukulele strumming, which stands as an unusual choice for this newest version of Little Women. Perhaps the idea was to be set apart from the traditional orchestral music of historical productions, and if this was indeed their true intention, they were successful. I think that the music would be enjoyable for a different setting, though to pair it with forever famous “Little Women” can detract from the story and draw us away from 1860s New England.

Screenplay 

The opening credits were unusual, however I found that I enjoyed their presentation. On the other hand, the opening scene was quite the contrary. The overall feeling was that we were watching them doing something of a repulsive nature, when really the girl’s main deed was to each snip a lock of hair to send to their father. By the editing and acting, it seemed as though the March sisters were doing this sweet gesture with an odd sense of wickedness. Let me just say that it was strange!

Also, Mr. March is certainly more present than in the book or other film versions, showing him caring for a dying slave in his chaplain’s tent. I think the decision to actually show Mr. March’s life in the army prevents the viewers from feeling how the March girls felt. They couldn’t see their father, spend time with him, or truly understand what he was going through. They were left only to know things by what could be relayed through a pen, and the fact that we were seeing the real picture while they were not seemed to eliminate the viewer’s desire to know, which differed from what the March girls were presently feeling.

I think that it would have been very smart to use two different actresses for the role of Amy to play her different ages, however this version had one actress play both the adolescent Amy and married Amy, which I felt weakened the overall effect and story.

Additionally, there was a “half-undressed” scene that I saw as unnecessary. There were also two different mentions of suicide which I thought was irrational extra drama.

Lastly, I did not admire how all Biblical lessons that are readily available to acquire from Little Women, were excluded, or replaced with feminist views. In the book, when trouble hit the March family, they called upon God for strength. In this new version, the girls drew strength from their “womanhood” and powered through with female independence, instead of harnessing God’s love to continue with their difficult lives as they did in the book.

Flubs and Mistakes 

The green-screening and CGI were quite recognizable.

When Jo runs into the woods to get a stick to rescue Amy, (which seems to be difficult even though she was in a late-winter forest) she returns with the stick and somehow has stabbed her hand and is covered in blood. Additionally, her cheek was also bleeding, while Amy, who was in the water for over a minute and a half, didn’t even catch cold. It takes about 15 minutes for one to get hypothermia and die, so let’s be thankful that Jo didn’t run any further into the woods than she unnecessarily did!

When Jo gets her hair cut, it is styled in a more modern fashion and there were no cut marks.

Beth’s hands were not moving at the piano while it was playing.

In one scene, every single CGI snowflake were falling up.

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

In conclusion: I must say that this miniseries does get better with each episode. By the end, there is a good quality to it that can possibly smooth over some of its faults. So. . .

Is this version of “Little Women” an accurate representation of Louisa May Alcott’s wonderful book? No.

Will watching this miniseries before reading the book hurt your reading experience? I think so.

Is this version historically accurate? Not quite.

Overall, is the 1994 Little Women version better? The answer is quite obvious, my friends.

Should you bother to watch this miniseries if you love the book? Yes, but be discerning and keep an eye out for its discrepancies.

Am I being too frank in my review? Probably.

Am I a crazy history loving girl who gets slighted when I meet someone who has never read Little Women? Yes!

……………………………………………………….

Have you seen this miniseries yet?

If so, what did you think?

Am I being too severe in my truthful opinions again? 😊

………………………………………………………

Megan Joy

22 thoughts on “Little Women Enthusiast Reviews PBS’s Masterpiece Adaptation

  1. I was really worried when I heard they were remaking Little Women as a miniseries, because I’ve loved both the book and the various film versions since I was a child. Sounds from this review like my fears and worries weren’t unfounded! I will still probably give this miniseries a watch if/when I get the chance, but will do so with your review in mind (gotta watch out for that scene with the CGI snow falling up! I laughed out loud when I read about that in your review, talk about a serious blunder!) It sounds like they definitely did a cringe worthy job with the miniseries at times, which is really unfortunate, but as I said, I kind of expected that they would.

    Excellent review, though, I enjoyed your well deserved roasting of this misguided miniseries!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! I think that snow scene is near to the end, maybe in the third episode?

      Yeah, you should watch it and see what you think! I’m often very critical about these things and find myself screaming “But that’s not how it was in the book!” all the time, so. . .

      Hopefully you get a chance to see it for yourself! I’d love to hear what you think, too! 🙂
      ~ Megan Joy

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved reading your review! I can relate to pointing out painful mistakes in books and movies. Whenever I read a book that has obviously not done their research it is hard to really enjoy because all I can think about is how uninformed they are! 😂
    I actually saw the last episode (I missed the previous ones) and had feelings of like and dislike. I liked the actresses who were picked for the March girls. Becuase at least in appearances, they seemed to fit their roles.
    But I agree with you, sometimes it was SO overdramatized it wasn’t really fun to watch.
    I’ve never seen the 1994 version, but you make it sound really good. Is it the best movie version?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the 1994 version is totally the best! The script, the directing, the score, the acting, and the casting is so perfect to what I imagined Little Women would be if I could actually SEE it!

      So far, I’ve seen the LW versions from 1949, 1978, 1994, and now 2018, but I have yet to see the one from 1933 with Katharine Hepburn. But unfortunately, I can’t find it anywhere to watch it! 🙂

      ~ Megan Joy

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe I should take a look at that one……it looks cool.
        Oh, and you might want to try Google Play or Amazon to rent the 1933 version. I know Google Play has it, but I’m not sure about amazon.
        By the way, I think it’s cool you want to be a filmmaker. I don’t come across many people who say that! What kind of films do you want to make?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I desire to create historical films that inspire and intrigues the audience, whether old or young. I want to create stories and present them in the most moving way possible, in a way that makes the viewer actually “think” about different aspects in life, and not just watch it once without any receiving any benefits. It’s my dream to one day create a film that positively affects the Earth and the people dwelling on it, by telling influencing stories. 🙂 Thanks for asking!
          ~ Megan Joy

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this miniseries. After watching it it was hard to decide whether I liked it or not. Like you said, some of the acting was super forced, and the costumes weren’t completely accurate. I do think they put some scenes in the miniseries that the 1994 version excluded, like Meg making jam and Jo and Amy going on calls. It was nice to see all the March girls with their families at the end of the last episode as well. That being said, the 1994 version did a infinitely better job at acting and capturing the mood of the story. This one had some charm, but the 1994 version will never be replaced in my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true about those extra scenes in the new version (although I never liked reading about poor Meg and her cooking blunders and John making things even more difficult bringing home extra friends and the like). 🙂

      I agree that the 1994 version can never be replaced. It is so very special!

      ~ Megan Joy

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have missed your posts, and I am so glad to see this.

    But I am displeased at how this series sounds…ick! Thanks for the heads up, I don’t view your post as too much, as I also am pretty frank in reviews, especially if tied closely to the material.

    Amy was annoying because she was little, which 1994 portrayed perfectly, but to make her a brat? No way! Not in that family! I too am a huge fan of the movie.

    On Peeking Beneath, I had to tried to review the new Anne of Green Gables on Netflix and promptly stopped by episode 4 or so because it was too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can’t seem to stay on a posting schedule very well, but I always hope in getting better! 🙂

      I agree, Amy would never have gotten away with such bad behavior in the March family!

      I haven’t even begun to watch the new Anne of Green Gables in fear of either breaking a slate over the TV or throwing the whole TV off a ridge pole! 🙂 When it comes to our favorite literature, we the people can get mighty particular when others portray the story differently! That’s how dangerous street gangs are created! 😉

      ~ Megan Joy

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you want to read my review before watching, you can on my blog, but girl seriously…first episode Anne is sent back to orphanage…it’s….just bad. And so against the book. The person who directed Breaking Bad wrote this.

        Liked by 2 people

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