Over Christmas break I went to see “Little Women.” It was based on the book by Louisa May Alcott. I just want to clarify that I’ve never actually read the book, even though I would like to. The book is loosely based on Alcott’s own life, although there are significant differences.
Louisa May Alcott was born on Nov. 29, 1832, in Germantown, an area which is now part of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father was a teacher and her mother was a social worker. Her father, Ammos Bronson Alcott, was part of the transcendentalist movement, and family friends included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau — all of whom would play a part in Louisa’s education. Her mother, Abby May, had feminist tendencies, and this was also a big influence on Louisa.
The book “Little Women” was influenced by Louisa’s own life, but her life was much different. Louisa experienced poverty, and struggle, mainly due to her father’s social experiments. She also experienced a close family life. She had that same sisterhood as Jo March. She loved them and fought with them too, like all families. She was determined to be financially secure; she was not determined to be married though. She felt that she had the temperament and soul of a man. Parts of Louisa can be seen in all of the March sisters: Jo’s independence, Meg’s desire for affluence, Amy’s search for attention, and Beth’s love of home.
The film “Little Women” focuses on the beloved March family. The film starts in 1868, where Jo March is teaching in New York. She publishes one of her stories, which had some editing from Mr. Dashwood. Her sister, Amy March, is in Paris with their Aunt March. She invites her friend Theodore “Laurie” Laurence to a party. Jo meets with Professor Fredrich Bhaer, who is interested in her writing. He reads her stories and he doesn’t like them, and Jo gets angry with him. Jo receives a letter saying that there is an illness in the family. She decides to go back home.
This is where we go back to 1861. Unlike the book, which follows chronological order, this film jumps back and forth in time. The film talks about Jo’s childhood with her sisters while their father is away serving in the Union Army and also about their grown-up lives when most of them get married. This is shown in three timelines: one in their childhood, one where Jo is still in New York, and one in the present. This can be a little confusing if you haven’t read the book.
This jumping around timelines is a unique approach by director Greta Gerwig. The colors of the movie change between timelines, depending on the mood. The switching around helps develop the motivation of the main characters, but something is lost, too. You don’t get to know the characters as well as when the story is presented in chronological order. My mom said that you don’t get the full story and maybe don’t get as emotionally attached to the characters this way. This may have been on purpose? The movie was more focused on Jo and her feminism than on the family dynamics.
Meryl Streep appears in the film as Aunt March. I know Meryl Streep from one of my favorite films, “Mamma Mia!” I really liked her character in that film. In “Little Women,” I feel like she could have had a bigger role. I know Emma Watson from the “Harry Potter” film series and Disney’s live action “Beauty and the Beast.” I liked her as Hermione Granger and as Belle. I also enjoyed her portrayal as Meg, the oldest March sister, in “Little Women.” She shows Meg’s struggle to be happy with what she has and not be envious of her rich friends. It is hard to get used to her American accent though.
Also starring in Gerwig’s adaptation of “Little Women” are Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Florence Pugh as Amy, Eliza Scanlen as Elizabeth, Laura Dern as Marmee, Timothée Chalamet as Theodore and Tracy Letts as Mr. Dashwood.
I enjoyed the film overall. It has a good message about how women are good for more than just marriage. It is a fitting and empowering message in a time when women are still being discriminated against. It also talks about the importance of family and being true to yourself. The movie made me want to read the book even more.
B.C. Zumpe is a middle school student, film buff and aspiring writer and director.