Do all the things.
I don’t particularly enjoy Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, but there are two film adaptions of the book that I adore. ‘Little Women’ (1994)…and ‘Little Women’ (2018), which is the adaption I’m reviewing today.
Let’s start with the story! Instead of trying to craft a recognizable plot out of a rather episodic book, the filmmakers went a different direction and told the story in a series of flashbacks. (The framework for the flashbacks is Jo working on her fantasy novel with instruction from Professor ‘Freddie’ Bhaer.) Most of the major events from the book are depicted in this film: Christmas without (m)any presents, Jo bumping into Laurie at a party, Meg making a fool of herself at another party (the prom this time), Amy burning Jo’s notebook, etc., etc. (I will say that Amy was a lot more justified in burning Jo’s notebook. The situation was changed up a little and I Approve.)
The feels were so, so real. I teared up multiple times, especially with parts concerning Beth (no spoilers!) and the final scene which was #beautiful and #weddingdaygoals.
Now I’m sure most of you are wondering if the casting director got it right. If Jo was the same strong, independent, flawed woman we all know and love. If Beth warmed every heart with her sweetness. If Laurie was a faithful friend. The answer to all of that is “YES”. I loved the casting for pretty much every character, but especially the four ‘little women’. Sarah Davenport was outstanding as Jo. She’s full of fire and fierce love and flaws. And she is indubitably a Writer! All the other films portray Jo’s writing as more of an unimportant, background hobby, but this adaption celebrated her journey as a writer. And that made her so much more relatable to me. For the first time, I actually, truly ‘got’ Jo. (And her connection to Beth was also so strong and I loved it.)
This review is getting loooong, so I’ll just quickly run through the rest of the cast. Beth was incredibly sweet, but also genuine. Meg was perfect. Amy (played, of course, by two different actresses) was annoying but had her moments of warmth. Marmee was suitably Marmee-ish. John Brooke was the only good portrayal of the character I’ve seen on film. It took me a bit to warm up to Laurie (especially because they didn’t include the part where he sends for Marmee without waiting for permission which is my favorite character moment of his) but by the time he comforted Jo at The Funeral, I really liked him.
Overall, ‘Little Women’ is a beautiful film about the importance of family and the connection between sisters. Highly recommended to fans of the original story.
Screening provided by Graf-Martin Communications and Pure Flix.