You love Louisa May Alcott’s book Little Women, but will you love the new modernized remake of Little Women? This book series is a personal favorite of mine, and I sharing a review of the new Little Women after seeing it in the theater.
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Y’all. For the first time in who knows how long, I went out just me and a girlfriend and saw a movie. Considering that I only see one or two movies A YEAR in the theater. This was pretty big. My friend knew exactly where to go, though, and we were able to enjoy our movie in style–skipping the lines completely and chilling in recliners with our giant tubs of popcorn.
This may be a “duh” thing for you, but for me it was a lightbulb moment. I need to go see more movies. Sans kids.
Our girls’ night was totally spontaneous (so thankful for spontaneous friends), but when I saw the previews and then the Instagram page for the new Little Women movie, the ball started rolling.
I am a HUGE Louisa May Alcott fan. Little Women and Little Men have been definitive in my life, shaping me as a young girl and instructing me as a mother of little girls and boys. The same is true for so many others, too. So it’s kind of a big deal to take the risk of watching such a classic story “modernized” and remade into a movie.
You may be wondering if you should risk the potential angst. I get it. Here’s my honest review of the new Little Women from someone who loooooves the book.
(If you know even a little bit of the story, there won’t be any spoilers for you below. But if the story is completely new to you, then your first task is to read the book or listen on Audible).
A Book Lover’s Review of the New Little Women
I’m going to let the cat out of the bag and tell you that I really enjoyed the movie. I can’t wait to add it to our collection and watch it again. But, there were a few things that really stood out to me as positives and negatives, so if you plan to go see the movie, you might want to be prepared.
A Brief Summary
The overall storyline of Little Women is simple– a family of four sisters with two wise and loving parents. The sisters each have very distinct personalities, dreams, and struggles. Little Women is their story of growing up, learning to be diligent and kind, figuring out how to interact graciously with each other and the world, and overcome their own particular vices so they can achieve their “castles in the sky”. In the midst of this, there is sadness, humor, and love.
1. The best thing I can say about the modernized movie is that they managed to capture each of the characters’ spirit and personal struggles well.
So much of what we love about Little Women is wrapped up in the characters themselves– we feel like we grew up with these girls, and for those who love the books, this is essential.
In my opinion, the actresses did a wonderful job of portraying their characters. Meg, the beautiful, sweet people pleaser who wants to fit in, whose greatest hope is to have a family of her own and the comforts money can buy. Jo, stubborn, thundering Jo, who lives and breathes passion and who must learn to reign that in and figure out what is most important. Amy, the young and pretty artist who struggles with vanity and being left behind as the youngest. Beth, the gentlest and sweetest of all, who is the sisters’ glue and Jo’s calm in the storm.
The settings are changed, of course, since the story takes place in the present day. But overall, the movie is faithful to the characters. I think that if this was not the case, the entire movie would have been spoiled from the beginning.
2. The movie does a good job at translating the key storylines and events into present day.
Anyone who is familiar with the book will be able to recognize many of the most memorable moments portrayed in the movie. One example: In the book, there is a time when Amy wants to go ice skating with Jo and Laurie, but Jo refuses to let Amy go. Amy ends up sneaking out anyway and gets in a very dangerous situation when she falls through the ice. Jo immediately regrets her stubborn unforgiveness towards Amy. This heart of this event from the book is a scene in the movie when Jo refuses to let Amy join her and Laurie on a horseback ride, only to find that Amy has tried to ride alone and is seriously injured.
Now is a good time to point out that while you can enjoy the movie without reading the book, viewers will be able to appreciate the story much more if they are familiar with the original.
3. Virtues are esteemed without the movie being moralistic.
One of Little Women’s greatest strengths is how it is so relatable. The girls have their ups and downs, their moments when they give in to temper and temptations. They are works in progress, with plenty of opportunities for lessons learned in life and humility.
In the midst of the struggles and the heartache are countless pearls of wisdom and moments of virtue that serve well as examples for us to learn from and live by. Louisa May Alcott weaves these into the story so deftly that we do not grow tired of the lessons, and the movie does a good job on the whole of showing these simple virtues of compassion, charity, humility, hard work, etc in a very positive light.
4.- I could probably go on and on about the pros of Little Women, so I will just leave a couple more highlights that I took away from the movie in particular:
- The family’s unity and love for one another shine through
- Male leads are likable and honorable, and true to the book. (The only one I felt was a little off was Professor Bhaer, but they won me over with the chemistry between Jo and Freddie in the movie).
- “There is no competition, we are each living our own story, reaching for our own castles in the sky”. Figuring out what your own dreams are and pursuing them is a central idea in the movie. I love this line of Beth’s after Jo admits that she is jealous of Amy’s life.
Naturally, a movie will rarely ever do a book complete justice, so there will always be a few things that book lovers take issue with. This new Little Women is a modern adaptation, which runs the risk of losing a good bit of the charm and quaintness that the book has in spades.
I am not going to nitpick every little discrepancy, because I think that each book lover will have their own unique disappointments. I was disappointed about how an aspect of Pilgrim’s Progress was portrayed, but that will not likely be noticeable to many others. As I mentioned earlier, I am mostly happy with how the movie adapted the story.
There are a few things that stood out as potentially problematic to most people, so that’s what I will share with you.
1. The storytelling is not linear– it hops around quite a bit, 10 years ago, present day, 16 years ago, present day, etc.
This isn’t necessarily a con in itself, because it makes for interesting storytelling. But for those who are unfamiliar with the story, they may have a harder time following the story of the girls because the movie hops around so much. There were a few times in particular when I had to try to remember at which point in the story we were in, (the story of Meg’s sickness comes to mind).
This is another good time to say that reading the book will make for more enjoyment of the movie.
2. The story is oversexualized at times.
This one won’t be a shocker since the movie is set in the current day. Hello, sex-obsessed culture. However, with the exception of a couple of scenes, I don’t think it was really that bad. There are several comments about how the girls are homeschooled and a little awkward at parties, (this really made my homeschooling friend and I laugh, #truth), and for the most part, the girls were portrayed with the innocence that Louisa May Alcott intended.
There was one scene in particular, though, that would make me want to wait a while to show the movie to my kids. Meg was at prom, wearing a much more revealing dress thanks to the prodding of her rich friends, and was making out with a boy in the basement of the school. Honestly, I was very relieved that nothing else happened to Meg because it was a very vulnerable position.
I still am unsure of whether or not I think that the modern version overstepped this one. I do wish it wasn’t there simply so it would be more of a family movie (at least for younger children), but I’m not sure it doesn’t fit in a modern version of the story. Meg was tempted to do things she otherwise wouldn’t in order to fit in in the book, but of course a situation like this wouldn’t have been included.
As it is, I do think that it will lead to go discussions with my kids, both my boys and my girls, when they are a little older. But it’s still a con for me, and something I wanted you to be aware of.
3. Not enough of Marmee.
This isn’t as much of a con as it is a wish that there was more of the girls’ mother in the movie. Marmee is such an incredible example of hard work, wisdom, and grace in the book and I would have liked to see more of her in the movie. She was there, but I think that we could all benefit from more of her insight and example.
Nothing could ever replace the book, so the very best way to enjoy Little Women is reading or listening to the original. After seeing the movie Saturday night, I spent a few hours on Sunday listening to the book while I cleaned. This version was recommended to me and I agree–the narrator does a great job. This radio version also looks really great.
The book may be better, but I’m a big fan of movies too. I look forward to seeing this one again, and eventually adding it to our home collection.
(P.S. Want even more Little Women? BBC just put out a wonderful 3-part miniseries this summer. It’s great!)
Have you seen the new movie? I’d love to hear what you thought!
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