As some of you know, I am obsessed with Louisa May Alcott’s book about family and growing up called Little Women.
If you have not read this book… you have no idea what you are missing out on, okay? It is a classic, yes. But it is not written in stuffy Shakespeare talk. It is funny and beautiful and spotlessly clean, for those of you who are strict. I read it out loud to my 13-year-old brother and he enjoyed it, so don’t let that girly title fool you! This book is for everyone.
Obviously, I wanted to see the different movie adaptions when I learned that they existed and I have reviewed my favorite-so-far, made in 1994 and starring Winona Ryder.
But I have also seen one other popular version of this story, starring June Allyson.
Let me just get something off my chest right from the start – I hated it.
That is not Jo.
And I guess that sums up my entire issue with this book… the characters. The characters are all wrong!
Jo acts like a five-year-old! She looks like a ten-year-old and she sounds at least forty. I have grown up with this story and if anyone knows Jo, it’s me. This performance simply does not ring true.
Laurie is… for lack of a better word, old. And this ruins everything. What mother in her right mind would allow her supposedly teenage daughters to hang out with some creepy old dude? And why does he need a tutor? He looks older than Brooke!
Speaking of Brooke… Brooke is one character whose age seems about right and his looks are… decent, but his voice! Is he a robot? I am genuinely perplexed…
And Amy. Oh, dearie me. Amy.
What is going on with her eyebrows?
Also, where did she get all that makeup? Her eyelids are blue, her foundation is thick, she’s wearing lipstick. This is ridiculous! The Marches were poor, and Marmee was strict about clothing and accessories, and she’s only twelve!
The age-warp doesn’t end there.
In fact, the age-warp is the main issue I have with the characters. Meg and Beth are too young-looking for their roles, while Amy is far too old-looking for hers. Jo is one of those confusing individuals whose age is unknown.
Meg, who was supposed to be sixteen, seems to be only about fourteen in this version – I was completely uncomfortable with the idea of her being married and it was even worse when she had kids.
Especially since Meg doesn’t seem to change at all in appearance over the course of the story.
We start with children and should be watching them grow to adulthood and fondly cheer on our little chicks as they each go their own way and pursue careers or get married or travel the world.
This movie takes place over what feels like maybe one year? Meg, Amy, and Beth literally do not change at all. Jo changes infinitesimally. And it’s too fast! It seems all blurred together and not nearly enough time seems to have passed. These girls are supposed to grow up! Not stay children, but start behaving like adults.
Not only do they not change in appearance, none of them change. There is no character development. There is no reason to love or get behind these characters because they don’t try to become better. They don’t fail. And they don’t succeed.
And I don’t care.
Beth is actually adorable. But she’s only five, so that’s a definite issue.
This definitely serves to make her death more sad! But it’s just manipulation, because the death of a little kid is always heartbreaking.
Proffessor Bhaer is too young but at least he’s thoroughly German?He’s also a wee bit too good looking.. and clean shaven… and decidedly not poor.
A lot of the movie follows the book word for word but just feels wrong coming out of the mouths of these forty year old actors instead of teenagers!
I am resigned to the fact that there are going to be changes to any and every movie adaptation of a book. That’s the way it goes and I try hide to take it in stride. But there were a few changes that I did object to because they threw everything else out of proportion.
The party, for example. The party was supposed to be held at the Gardiner’s, if you care to know. But where it was held is inconsequential… as long as it is not held at Laurie’s house.
Guess who hosted it in this version?
Because of this change, Laurie’s whole personality is wrong. He is no longer the shy boy who meets Jo by choosing the same hiding place behind the curtains. The change of his backstory was needless and served no purpose that I could see – Laurie did not run away from school, enlist in the army, and get wounded! Absurd!
Laurie doesn’t propose to Jo at Meg’s wedding, either. And had a race down the hill for fun, not because Jo wanted to escape from an overtly passionate Laurie. That’s just plain awkward.
Jo was good at acting, not ridiculous. Furthermore, she would’ve worn pants for the plays in which she took all the males roles. It’s not terribly convincing to wear a mustache and a skirt.
The girls never would’ve lied or hidden things from Marmee, and I resent the fact that they did in this version.
In the story of Little Women, Amy has a change of heart that partly begins after her sister dies. She sees that being selfish doesn’t make people inclined to love you more. Her transformation is completed when she falls in love with Laurie – and chooses love over money. This movie portrays an Amy who never had a change of heart at all. Everyone simply allows her to be self-centered and nasty and steal from starving children.
In the end, it’s not the changes.
There are always going to be changes, and you have to accept that or give up movie-watching, because almost every movie is an adaption of a book or play or comic.
My big issue is that I get the distinct feeling that they didn’t even try to be respectful of the real story, the story Louisa May Alcott wrote.
I will close with this…
…They waste every minute of the two hours.