When I heard that Greta Gerwig was making an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, I expected people to start asking me for my thoughts on it. So I decided to re-read the novel before seeing the film so that I would be best prepared to criticize the movie.
I ended up seeing the movie twice. I enjoyed the movie. I was predisposed to like some of the characters. (I love Meg. I’ve always loved Meg, and I love the way that Emma Watson played her. I really wish that she had gotten more screen time) I felt that it was a fairly accurate representation of the book. (They even included some of the New England Protestant moralizing that I abhor about the book! I’ll give them points for that.) The setting/scenery were solid.
But I had some issues with movie. My companion for my second viewing of the film (a friend who is an excellent writer but also has a certain way of conveying words when speaking) defined it as “interesting,” in a tone that conveyed so much more than that one word seems to express. I so wish that I could convey that “interesting” to you. I’m going to just list them off in bullet points, and then at the end I intend to list off a few things that I did like about the movie.
- Chris Cooper is too young to be Timothee Chalamet’s grandfather.
- He’s also too old to have been friends with Laura Dern’s father. That whole thing BUGGED me.
- Aunt March is the widow of Mr. March’s uncle, NOT his rich spinster sister.
- The Marches are temperance people. They only use alcohol medicinally. In fact, it’s a significant point that there was NO alcohol at Meg’s wedding.
- Aunt March didn’t pay for Meg’s wedding.
- I did NOT like using the same actresses for Amy and Beth when they’re children as when they’re adults. I think that I kind of get the idea behind it, but Florence Pugh playing a nine-year-old and sitting in class with a bunch of age-appropriate actresses felt weird. Yeah, they did things with hairstyles and skirt lengths, but it rang a bit false to me. Eliza Scanlen never stopped being a child to me, and Pugh never could be a child for me. (Also her voice might have had something to do with that. Pugh’s voice is a bit lower than a soprano and definitely lower than a child’s voice.)
- Amy was whipped for the limes, not the drawing-although she did get in trouble for the drawing. And she went to her sister at Aunt March’s not to the Laurences’.
- Professor Bhaer really ought to be old enough to have had some experience as a university professor. Also, he should have been played by Oscar Isaac because that’s what I wanted. Also, he should have sounded German because that’s an important part of his character.
- And while we’re talking about Professor B, when am I going to get a Little Women movie that includes Franz and Emil? I love Franz and Emil. Love.
- Mrs. March makes a comment that she’s never been proud of her country, which feels very 2020 and very NOT 1860s. There were other lines and aesthetics (hairstyles and fashion choices) that felt a bit too modern.
- Beth and Meg, the “domestic sisters,” get less screen-time/narrative focus than Jo and Amy, the “creative sisters.” This bothered me because Little Women is a story about sisterhood, and I think that there is a great deal of power in Meg’s and Beth’s narratives
Things that I did like:
- I actually really enjoyed Amy’s “marriage is an economic proposition” speech. It’s not text from the book but it’s the spirit of the book as I read it. Also, it’s NOT wrong. Marriage for a woman like Amy was absolutely an economic proposition.
- I loved that Meg’s green silk dress and the ensuing drama made it in the film.
- I loved the Laura Dern/Saoirse Ronan mother-daughter dynamic. More of that, please Hollywood!
- Jo’s “I want to be loved…I’m lonely” speech was brilliant. I know so many people (including myself) who have felt that feel. Her concern wasn’t so much about loving others but in her loneliness she JUST wanted to be wanted and loved.
- Meg telling Jo that she is marrying John Brooke because she wants to! I loved this. I loved the power of this moment in which she acknowledged that she chose marriage and a family over other possibilities. She is choosing to love a poor man. Her eyes are open. The life isn’t always easy, and she does struggle with it at times. But she chose this life willingly.
- I like Bob Odenkirk. He seems like cool people.
- James Norton was there, and that made me happy. He was a good if underused John Brooke. He and Emma Watson also had good, solid chemistry.
Overall, it was an interesting film. It’s not my favorite movie ever. It isn’t my favorite Little Women adaptation, but it was enjoyable. I definitely don’t regret seeing it.