Film rewriting: Little Women

Things are opening up again, including movie theaters. And one thing I did miss in China, were the smaller places we have here where you can find the non-blockbusters. It is a bit ironic then that the first movie I watched here, was one of the more mainstream ones.

Hearing the title Little Women, it kind of reminded me of A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara. I have not read both books, but they must be quite different after watching the first one’s adaptation. Little Women is a romantic setting, à la Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights. A Little Life is more of a biopic including many different characters and their struggles, a focus on the realistic instead of the romantic.

So Little Women, then, has the following synopsis on imdb:

“Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women, each determined to live life on her own terms.”

It feels similar to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in the setup with multiple sisters who all have quite different personalities. Although I pretty much bawled my eyes out during the second half and liked the movie in general, there were a few things I would have done differently.

  1. I expected to see a bit more evenly divided screen time. Of course it became clear early on that we would just be in Jo March’s head, and Amy March as a good second, but I hoped to learn a bit more about the other 2 sisters’ perspectives as well. Especially Meg March, who is shown having some grudges about the life she chose, but there is no real catharsis from the one argument she has with her husband, to her frolicking in the garden with her kids at the end. Let alone talking about the sickly sister Beth March, who mostly serves just to be taken care of instead of being a fully formed character.
  2. How did they manage to make this main love interest guy look so much like he does not belong in this era? He is cute, but his body language reminded me of a cool guy who just put on these clothes because someone told him too. Also, he is not even fleshed out that much. We see him bantering with his teacher, who marries Meg March, and hear through other characters that he does not have a very good relationship with his father, but none of it is really shown. This makes it even more difficult to look beyond his modern demeanor and see him as an actual Victorian gentleman.
  3. Jo March is played very well by Saoirse Ronan, but her arc is kind of… anti-climactic. Especially since during the movie’s title sequence, a statement is shown saying something like “my life has been tough enough, so I only wrote about frivolous things.” And I am not one to say that it is ‘not tough enough’ if you have to scrape by or lose a family member, but the problem is that you do not see a lot of moments of real despair, besides the main ‘climax’. Even though everyone is not thriving at the beginning, neither of them really have failed. Add to that the fact that you mainly see flashbacks of happy family moments, and all the tension created for the final romance, sort of feels undeserved.

This is not to say that I do not like the movie, I just think it is a bit too sweet for my taste. I really love Pride and Prejudice and liked Sense and Sensibility as well, so I certainly have a soft spot this genre. It just nagged me a bit while watching the movie that I was waiting for a punch, but only got soft pats.

N.B. I did not take into account the original novel (which I have not read) for these critique points.

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