The new movie version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women moves with great rapidity. It makes me think of Hemingway’s title, A Moveable Feast. It serves up scrumptious bites and small morsels from this well-known plot in a circuitous fashion.
If the viewer does not know the plot with some level of detail, he or she may have a hard time following at times. The new director (Great Gerwig) uses flashbacks but not in a linear way and it will take some time to reflect and see the whole scheme of things.
For those who know and love the Civil War Era story of the March family, it is a treat as one enjoys the creativity used in telling this age-old tale. The beautiful period dresses and clothes, the use of the actual Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, the low candle-lit rooms, the snowy scenes and the beach adventures all add to the beauty of times gone by.
The rivalry between the sisters, the death of a sibling and the absent soldier father help to display Jo March as the guts and backbone of this family of women. Her scribblings sustain her as she gets ideas from the theatrics that the wardrobed girls act out in the attic.
Jo is central to the story and though she does not get the trip abroad nor the boy next door, she gets so much more. She becomes a published writer and truly exemplifies Alcott’s legendary life. Filmmakers are still using her words over 150 years later.
In truth, Alcott did write for eight hours at a time and when one hand was tired, she wrote with the other hand. The movie showed her changing hands and it got many other facts right. It did not, however, show the sister’s art drawn on the walls of the home but then, one would have to take a trip to Concord to see it. Also, the family often experienced poverty and despair due to the father’s progressive beliefs which made him ride against the tide. Alcott was the breadwinner for many years through her writing. One would have to delve deeper and do some more research to know her real plight.
This new version of Little Women takes a lot of risks, but the fine acting helps to pull it into its final stop. Notables like Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep along with several newcomers all assist as this story is told from an independent woman’s point of view. It closes with Jo March holding her newly pressed book in her arms after negotiating her royalties with her publisher. And that is fair enough!
Lynn M. January 7, 2020