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Little Women Movie Review - Well-Acted and Modernized

The 2019 Little Women film is choppy but true to theme.

Reviewed by on Dec 24, 2019
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw Little Women starring Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh. It’s female-power centered in a time when women had none. Check out our movie review.

Right after the American Civil War, Little Women loving March sisters Josephine “Jo” (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) scrimp and save with the guidance of their mom called Marmee (Laura Dern).

The March sisters with MarmeeThe March sisters with MarmeeCourtesy of Sony Pictures

All the girls are crushing on next door neighbor rich boy Teddy Laurie Laurence (Timothée Chalamet) but he targets Jo. Seven years later, Meg has married poor but loyal tutor John Brooke (James Norton), Amy is studying art in Paris with ill-tempered Aunt March (Meryl Streep), Jo is writing for tabloids in New York and Beth, ever sickly, is still home. Will this status-quo stick or are the girls in for surprises?

Little Women Trailer

 

Gender Prejudice and More

Jo is in New York living in a boarding house and trying to sell her stories to local tabloid-style papers. She is only successful when she writes sensational, violent things that, in that day, men would write. Good-looking foreign professor Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel) flirts with her but also criticizes her work.

Jo is thrilled after selling a storyJo is thrilled after selling a storyCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Amy is in Paris trying to paint while companioning Aunt March. She hugs Laurie who is visiting and is sure Jo will turn him down when he proposes to her. Meg has married Laurie’s old tutor John and can’t afford a new dress. Beth, still fragile and sick, lives at home.

Meg is poor having married for loveMeg is poor having married for loveCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Seven Years Before

The Civil War is over but dad Mr. March (Bob Odenkirk) hasn’t come home. The sisters and Marmee struggle but the girls attend a dance. Only Meg, the oldest has a nice dress to wear. Laurie makes reluctant Jo dance with him outside. In New York, now, Friedrich gifts Jo a set of Shakespeare books, reads her unfinished novel and tells her she is too good for sloppy work like that. Meanwhile, Amy flirts with Laurie in Paris.

Laurie is in love with Amy in ParisLaurie is in love with Amy in ParisCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Jo remembers when the sisters put on her plays and the family gave up Christmas breakfast to a poor young woman with sick kids. Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper) gifts talented pianist Beth with his piano and Aunt March tells Jo she must marry but first go with her to Europe.

Rich Aunt MarchRich Aunt MarchCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Beth Very Ill

In the present, Jo leaves New York to come take ailing Beth to the seashore for a hoped cure. The girls remember how angry Amy, left behind while Jo and Meg went to a dance, burned all of her writing! Jo swears to hate Amy forever but relents when Amy falls through thin ice nearly drowning. Now, Jo comforts Beth in their seaside rental. There are memories of Meg going to a debutante ball with one dress and being loaned another. Laurie is there and doesn’t like the frilly dress but dances with her.

Meg in her pretty ball gownMeg in her pretty ball gownCourtesy of Sony Pictures

She pretends to be a rich girl named Daisy. In the present, Meg tells her poor husband that she spent money on silk for a dress while he simply needed a warm coat. He hates that he can’t give her nice things. In Paris, rich Fred Vaughn is about to propose to Amy who doesn’t love him but will have nothing if she doesn’t marry well. Laurie thinks she should be in love.

Dad Was Injured

Back in the past, we see that Mr. March was injured in the war and is recovering in Washington D.C.. Somehow the family must raise the money to get Marmee there to him. Jo sells her long hair to pay for the trip and cries later.

Jo will miss her long hairJo will miss her long hairCourtesy of Sony Pictures

In the present, in Paris, Laurie declares his love to Amy. Don’t marry Fred! She has always loved Laurie but feels that she is second choice for him after his first love Jo. Fred proposes and Amy says no. Jump to the past when the girls wait for mom and dad to return. Beth takes mom’s place delivering food to sick families and catches Scarlet Fever. Beth is dying and mom is sent for. Beth gets well but, in the present, finally dies at the seashore with Jo. Aunt March asks Amy to go to Paris with her rather than Jo.

Beth in healthier timesBeth in healthier timesCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Remembering

Jo remembers Meg’s wedding and Laurie’s proposal to her. It broke Jo’s heart to turn him down but they weren’t a good match. She felt abandoned when Aunt March took Amy instead of her to Paris and burned her own work. Will she go back to New York as Marmee suggests and perhaps give Friedrich a chance to be her guy? Can she be successful writing a novel about her family rather than sensational stories that sell?  Will Laurie marry Amy? Can Meg be satisfied with a lower class existence?

Jo turns down Laurie's proposalJo turns down Laurie's proposalCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Wrapping Up

This version of the classic “Little Women” is a little long at 2 and ½ hours and the story jumps from past to future and back a lot which may confuse some audience members. The movie is more about the characters and its theme depicting the low status of women in the 1860’s than a standard “beginning, middle and end” storyline. It’s more a series of incidents strung together so there is no time for any tension to build.

The March sisters dream of different livesThe March sisters dream of different livesCourtesy of Sony Pictures

With the focus on character; especially young women determined to live life as they see fit rather than as society dictates, the tale is very timeless. Acting is really good. Especially standing out are Saoirse Ronan as feisty, independent Jo and cute Timothée Chalamet as devoted Laurie. Florence Pugh’s Amy is also really effective as she undergoes a lifetime of feeling that she is competing with Jo.

Amy, Jo and Meg often argueAmy, Jo and Meg often argueCourtesy of Sony Pictures

Overall, there have been many film versions of this classic novel but this one should appeal to modern teen girls and the guys who love them. Younger kids would probably be bored. We can award four stars.

Little Women Movie Rating: 4

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

See Little Women in theaters Christmas Day, December 25th

Are You In or Out?

Have you read the classic novel or seen other Little Women films? Are you glad young women today have more equality with the guys in their lives? Time to lay down your opinion! Comment here or on your Kidzworld page!

 

By: Lynn Barker