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.
There were two or three scenes showing the girls in corsets. Firstly, not all the March sisters wore corsets that early into the book. Secondly, some of 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 later 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 that would have helped to smooth those lines.
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.
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.
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 anymore. I know I would be!
The relationship between Jo and Amy seems much harsher than in the book or any other version. One could also 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).
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.
The opening credits were unusual, however I found that I enjoyed its presentation. On the other hand, the opening scene was quite the contrary. The overall feeling was that we were watching the girls do something of a repulsive nature, when really their 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, the CGI snowflakes 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? 😊