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, 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

Top Ten Movies

Pink Rose Wilting Stock Photo

Some movies are funny, others are meaningful. Some are full of adventure while others are bursting with songs! Whatever the case, movies are what we look to when we want to explore another world, another time, another place. Films are such a powerful tool. They can make us have a dozen different feelings and let us think about hundreds of different things. Movies take us to the places we want to go when we are confined to our own world. For an hour or two we can live inside a fairytale or voyage to a faraway land. The possibilities are indeed endless. That’s why I love movies that are not only fun to watch at the time, but actually impact my real life, the life that matters. So here is a list of my favorite ten movies beginning with number ten!

(Warning! I may add a few “fun facts” being a crazy fan of all these films. If you don’t find them as fascinating as I did: sorry.)

……………………………………………….

10. The Happiest Millionaire

1967 – Starring Fred MacMurray, Tommy Steele, Lesley Ann Warren, John Davidson, and Greer Garson. Music written by the Sherman Brothers.

Set in 1916, this movie is based on the true story of the Drexel-Biddle family of Philadelphia. It received an Academy Award for costume design; more than 3,000 costumes were required for the film. This is also the last Disney film in which Walt Disney had direct involvement, as he died during the production.

9. Mary Poppins

1964 – Starring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Matthew Garber, Karen Dotrice, Glynis Johns, Ed Wynn, Elsa Lanchester, Arthur Treacher, and Jane Darwell. Music written by the Sherman Brothers.

Adapted from the P.L. Travers’ books, this movie is a Disney classic, receiving 13 Academy Award nominations. It would be hard to find someone who has never heard of Mary Poppins as it is thought of as the greatest Disney film ever made. Walt Disney attempted to buy the story rights from Mrs. Travers back in 1936, but was rejected by the author because she believed no one could live up to her book.

8. The Apple Dumpling Gang

1975 – Starring Don Knotts, Tim Conway, Bill Bixby, Harry Morgan, Susan Clark, Clay O’Brian, Stacy Manning, and Brad Savage. Music written by Shane Tatum.

Another Disney film, this time set during the California Gold Rush. This western comedy has everything one would hope for jam-packed in 100 minutes! There is one scene in which Tim Conway and Don Knotts create the most hilarious improvisational skit, made up completely on the spot! It is said that while shooting the scene, many of the crew members had to leave the soundstage because they were laughing out loud!

7. The Music Man

2003 – Starring Matthew Broderick, Kristen Chenoweth, Victor Garber, Molly Shannon, Cameron Monaghan, Debra Monk, and David Aaron Baker. Music written by Meredith Wilson.

This is the most recent adaptation of the original Broadway musical first performed in the 1950s. There are a few errors in the historical accuracy, but I can overlook it since it’s just so funny! You have to listen to the song lyrics closely to hear the best parts of the movie. The original film included Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, and Ron Howard. If you love musicals, the 2003 version is just for you!

6. The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit

1963 – Starring Dean Jones, Kurt Russell, Diane Baker, Ellen Janov, Fred Clark, and Morey Amsterdam. Music written by George Bruns.

Based on the 1955 book by Eric Hatch, this film is especially for horse-lovers! It’s about a girl who really wants a horse and gets one (I know, cliché and frustrating for us horseless horse-lovers). Dean Jones, my all-time favorite male actor, plays the girl’s horse-allergy inflicted father! Jones was known for his pretend sneezing and later used that skill in 1965 for Disney’s That Darn Cat, co-starring Haley Mills.

5. Just Around the Corner

1938 – Starring Shirley Temple, Bill Robinson, Charles Farrell, Franklin Pangborn, Joan Davis, Benny Bartlett, and Claude Billingwater. Music written by Harold Spina.

This is my favorite Shirley Temple film. Set during the Great Depression, Shirley Temple plays the daughter of a wealthy architect. She comes home from her girls’ school to find that her penthouse is now inhabited by another family, and her new apartment is now the basement. The slump in business has caused her father to lose nearly everything. In one scene, Shirley gives a little dog a bath. In reality, it’s her own dog, Ching Ching! Shirley charged the studio a total of $7.50 to use her dog in the film as an extra. She was certainly a little business woman!

4. Hot Lead and Cold Feet

1978 – Starring Jim Dale, Don Knotts, Darren McGavin, Karen Valentine, John Williams, Michael Sharrett, and Debbie Lytton. Music written by Buddy Baker.

This Disney western tale has one of the best casts ever! Jim Dale stars as all three main characters, Eli, Wild Billy, and Old Man Bloodshy! It’s the story of two twins racing to win their (supposedly deceased) father’s inheritance. Don Knotts and Darren McGavin appear together again in this film, the first time being in No Deposit, No Return, 1976. One of the two trains used in this film is today on display in Disneyland in California.

3. The Secret Garden

1993 – Starring Kate Maberly, Maggie Smith, Heydon Prowse, Andrew Knott, John Lynch, and Laura Crossely. Music written by Zbigniew Preisner.

Adapted from the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic, this film holds some of the most magical scenes! The costumes, the acting, the cast, the story, the score, and the cinematography are put together perfectly to create the chronicles of Mary Lennox, an orphaned girl sent to live in her uncle’s mansion in Victorian England. She soon becomes aware of her crippled cousin, steals a mysterious garden, and combines the two in order to bring happiness back to Misselthwaite Manor.

2. Little Women

1994 – Starring Winona Ryder, Trini Alvarado, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, Gabriel Byrne, Eric Stoltz, and Mary Wickes. Music written by Thomas Newman.

Taking place during and after the American Civil War, this is the story based upon the Louisa May Alcott book, Little Women. The four March sisters are growing up without their father who has gone off to war. The enchanting and heart-warming/wrenching tale brings history to life, causing the viewer to embrace the March sisters’ world and all its plights. This movie holds the most powerful score, it melts my heart whenever I hear it.

1. Anne of Green Gables

1985 – Starring Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, Jonathan Crombie, Schuyler Grant, Patricia Hamilton, and Marilyn Lightstone. Music written by Hagood Hardy.

Here we are: #1! This one wasn’t too hard to guess, was it? Anne of Green Gables and its sequel were based on a book series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. For those who don’t know the plot, Anne, a red-haired and ambitious orphan is accidentally sent to live with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert on Prince Edward Island. Even after she creates much havoc and breaks a slate over a boy’s head at school, the Cuthberts allow her to stay for good. The movie continues until Anne is sixteen, and later picks up in the sequel in 1987. This movie has been my favorite ever since I first watched it many years ago. It transports special feelings right out of the screen and into my heart, letting me enter into the magical world of Anne. It has changed the way I think about the past, present, and future, and will forever be something special that I want to share with everyone!

………………………………………….……

What are your favorite movies?

Who is your favorite actor?

Which of the movies on my list have you heard of/watched before?

Megan Joy