Oh No, Not Another Little Women

Forget my last post. THIS, apparently is what brought me back to blogging: the need to rant about yet another version of my precious Little Women, which has somehow found its way onto the big screen, again. Yes, a new film was released around two weeks ago, claiming to represent the beloved Louisa May Alcott work about four sisters and their coming of age story. Just how many versions of this story can be made, one may ask? Well, if you were to include silent films, theatrical plays, musicals, operas, radio programs, tv shows, and films, there would be a grand total of 20 documented versions of Little Women.

You may have read my post on the PBS’s Masterpiece version that was released just last year, and I’ve promised myself that I won’t be as harsh with this one. . . if at all possible.  I’m sure we can all agree that Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version of Little Women has for certain, risen above all other attempts and that Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March were represented extremely well by Trini Alvarado, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, and Kirsten Dunst, and it stands to reason that there will never be a better Laurie than young Christian Bale.

Now, after watching the film trailer, which can be found on YouTube, I’ve decided not to pay thirteen dollars to see this new version in theater because I would surely disrupt it for other viewers as I stand upon my seat screaming “That’s not historically correct!” or “That’s not even in the book!” After all, you can have all the best lighting, sets, color grading, and visual effects, but those things don’t really compete with the way the actual story of Little Women is told, and how the dialog and costumes are used to make us truly believe we’re in the middle of the Civil War.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve seen this new take on the book and found it enjoyable? That’s completely fine! Remember this is only me sharing my personal opinion. However, I did notice a few things in the official 3-minute-long trailer which at this moment has half a million views. Here’s what I noticed:

0:12 – We see four sister walking down a snowy street, two without any hats or bonnets (historically inaccurate). They also look a little homeless, but maybe I’m just too picky?

0:23 – We hear Amy tell her sisters that she wants to be the best artist in the world. Is it just me or does she seem older than all the sisters, and not the youngest child in the family? Why didn’t they find a younger actress to play ten-year-old Amy instead of trying to fool us out of knowing that the actress is actually twenty-three years old in real life?

0:57 – Jo’s at a party with her hair down. How did she get away with that? Quite shocking if you were to ask any historical reenactress today.

1:23 – It sounds like Jo is trying to convince Meg that they should run away from home? What?

1:32 – Ok, what in the world were they thinking? It’s Meg’s wedding day and she appears to be wearing something perhaps more fitting for the 1970s rather than 1870s, with her hair DOWN, uncurled, and with a side part (very historically inaccurate). With a budget of $40 million dollars, couldn’t they have hired someone who knew a little something about the standards of 1860s-1870s beauty? It’s her wedding day and is looking as though she forgot to wake up in time to do her hair. All throughout the trailer in fact, we see side parts and either straight or beach wavy hair, down about their shoulders and not up where it should be while in public, historically.

1:43 – Why is Jo burning her own writing? What happened to that being Amy’s trademark?

2:00 – Here is a staircase full of women presumedly at the Moffat party, perhaps? Ten girls dressed in basically the same dress, only each in a different pastel color with matching elbow length gloves, (not actually in fashion during the Civil War). It reminds me of a Disney cartoon/fairytale, instead of a historical drama in the way that each dress is the same. But that is only my personal opinion, of course. I also want to mention that I DID see many historically accurate gowns and outfits in the trailer that were quite beautiful in fact, ones that I absolutely cannot complain about.

2:29 – Jo is fashioned in a man’s jacket and derby. That would have been almost as strange to the people of New York in the 1870s as a man in a dress, literally. Yes, we all know Jo is a tomboy, but I doubt she would actually get away with that in public and not be harshly questioned for it.

What also riled me was that along with this new movie comes the selling of a book that a few people I know have bought. The front cover is a photo from the new film and inside are more pictures of the same. What I want to know is: Is this book the original book, or it is the 2019 adaptation that changes the plot to match Greta Gerwig’s script? Because, after reading a few articles, I know that not only little changes were made, but big ones too, like the ending. Emma Thompson, screenwriter and co-star of Sense and Sensibility 1995 once wrote in her production journal, “The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Dairies” that she strongly rejected the idea to republish Jane Austen’s book as a “novelisation” adapted to match Thompson’s screenplay, and sell it as the real thing. She said the idea was revolting, meaning that if someone wanted to read Sense and Sensibility, they should read Austen’s original work. I must agree with our dear Emma.

Little Women 2019, which stars a slew of famous names, has been spoken of well by film critics (but we all know that means almost nothing) and was already nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, Saoirse Ronan for Best Actress and Alexandre Desplat for Best Original Score. Now, I’ve done some little detective work and have found the following interesting facts:

  1. Winona Ryder was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress as Jo March in 1994 but lost to Jessica Lange for Blue Sky.
  2. Thomas Newman was nominated for Best Original Score in 1994 but lost to Hans Zimmer for The Lion King.
  3. The great Colleen Atwood was nominated for Best Costume Design in 1994 but lost to Tim Chappel for a movie I’ve never even heard of.
  4. Little Women, 1994 budget was $18 million dollars. Little Women, 2019 budget was $40 million dollars.

Now for a few more recent facts about the 77th Golden Globe Awards, held on January 5th, 2020:

  1. Christian Bale (Laurie, Little Women, 1994) was nominated for Best Actor in Ford vs. Ferrari.
  2. Thomas Newman (score composer, Little Women, 1994) was nominated for Best Original Score in 1917 and was against Alexandre Desplat who wrote the new score for the 2019 Little Women.
  3. Kirsten Dunst (Young Amy, Little Women, 1994) was nominated for Best Actress in a Television Series.

None of these nominations ended up winning last night, but I did see that both Thomas Newman and Kirsten Dunst were at the awards on Sunday night, (no Christian Bale though). Now, I was thinking. What do Christian, Thomas, and Kirsten, who are all heavily connected to the previous Little Women think about this new production? What do the rest of the cast and crew think? Do they think it was time for a remake, or are they like me and not ready for a new take on this beloved story?

Maybe I’m a little sour over this whole ordeal, but what else am I to think while feeling as though the book has been ripped from my hands, cut up, pasted back together with modernly crafted glue, plastered with an unknown photo from a film, stripped from its universally known ending, then released to the entire world to accept as once before? What do you think? Please let me know! I want to hear any and all opinions!

………………..

Have you seen this 2019 version? Am I dreadfully wrong not to see it and yet criticize it?

Should I stop this continuous ranting of movies I don’t like? (Insert mysterious pirate accent here: Because I hear tell there be a trailer for a “Secret Garden” remake that I feel the need to tear apart, being a strong believer in the treasure that is the 1993 version, arrgg!)

………………..

Megan Joy

Little Women Enthusiast Reviews PBS’s Masterpiece Adaptation

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, 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.

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 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).

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 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, 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