Book Review: “Little Women: The Official Movie Companion”

I am pleased to present this guest post review by Niina Niskanen who has frequently left thoughtful comments on this blog.

The premiere of the new Little Women feature film is approaching and recently a movie companion written by Gina McIntyre was released with beautiful photographs taken from the set by Wilson Webb. The book includes interviews from the cast, director, set designers, choreographers, and clothing department. Readers will learn about the history that led to Louisa May Alcott´s classic, and the vision that brought these cherished characters to life.

Louisa May Alcott and the legacy of Little Women

When you are deeply invested in a story you have loved since childhood, prospects of any new adaptation can be both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. For one fan, Katherine Hepburn is the only real Jo March when another one wows on Winona Ryder´s performance. At some point, my adoration towards Little Women shifted away from the books to approach it as a cultural phenomenon and this is why I never get tired of seeing new adaptations. It was interesting to read the memories and thoughts of Little Women from Greta Gerwig and the three film producers —  Amy Pascal, Denise Di Novi and Robin Swicord (Di Novi also produced the 1994 film and Robin Swicord was one of the scriptwriters)

Photo credit: Wilson Webb; © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Some of the main criticism that the new adaptation has received (just based on the trailer) is the way it is trying to tick off all the boxes of the fourth wave of feminism. I never saw Little Women as anything else other than a feminist novel but all the same, I understand where this criticism comes from. It seems to be a trend that every single female character in any type of film these days needs to have empowering traits. Little Women however, was written by an author who was part of the first wave of feminism and it is those past struggles and successes that have taken us to where we are today. The message of Little Women about radical acceptance is timeless. Whether Gerwig´s film is going to deliver remains to be seen.

The women (and men) of Little Women

The part that I enjoyed most in this book was the actor interviews. Saoirse Ronan’s take on Jo having a “Peter Pan complex” is a worthwhile approach that deserves attention.

“Strength can be found in vulnerability too and opening yourself up to the feelings that you might not want to feel. Hopefully, this film will be a way for people to appreciate introverts as people who have something to say and who navigate the world in their way that´s no less important” — Eliza Scanlen

Eliza Scanlen in Greta Gerwig’s LITTLE WOMEN. Photo credit: Wilson Webb; © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Eliza Scanlen´s interpretation of Beth was something I found deeply moving (Scanlen, required to be able to play the piano, returned to the instrument she had played as a child). I especially look forward to seeing her interactions with Mr. Laurence.

Photo credit: Wilson Webb; © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Louis Garrel’s insights on Friedrich has made me curious about the portrayal of Mr. Bhaer in this adaptation. Gender fluidity themes in the relationship between Jo and Laurie is a refreshing approach. Laura Dern´s Marmee is following the footsteps of Susan Sarandon – that of making the character more like the real-life counterpart, Abigail Alcott.

Laura Dern in Columbia Pictures’ LITTLE WOMEN. Photo credit: Wilson Webb; © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“The book was important to me because it didn´t just highlight these four very angelic girls. It also talked about their hunger, how passionate they are to want to make something of themselves. That´s always attractive to read, whether it´s about women or men” — Florence Pugh

Florence Pugh and Saoirse Ronan  in Greta Gerwig’s LITTLE WOMEN. Photo credit: Wilson Webb; © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Pugh´s performance as Amy is what I most look forward to seeing in this film. Jo´s and Amy´s relationship in the book is raw but it´s also realistic. They argue because they had similar tempers but they also fiercely love each other. In part one, Laurie in many ways works as Jo´s mirror; in part two, Amy serves a similar purpose. It will be exciting to finally see that on screen. I believe Amy is going to be the secret weapon of this movie.

Living like the Marches

The book includes artistic and hauntingly beautiful wet plate photographs of the characters. There  are recipes from the film and I am tempted to try Amy´s pickled limes.

The book includes the history of the Alcott family and Orchard House.

I found the costume design very interesting especially when it came to the girls as individuals, the shift in Laurie when he matures, and the gender fluidity of Jo and Laurie in their youth. It looks like they are borrowing each other’s clothes in the film.

One can only admire the skill of the prop department as individual characters are introduced with items that are important and specially made for them.

General impressions

I must admit I have very mixed feelings about this movie and the accompanying book because of some of Gerwig´s statements. They have made me feel that she doesn´t understand the heart-core of the story. Nevertheless, I am sure there are elements in this film that I find enjoyable as they are in all the previous Little Women adaptations.

Niina Niskanen can be found at http://www.fairychamber.com

 

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3 Replies to “Book Review: “Little Women: The Official Movie Companion””

  1. Growing up, there was a battered blue copy of Little Women in our home. It was a wartime copy with fragile paper and no illustrations except for the inside of the cover.
    When i first read it at age eight, i reread it almost immediately. I still pick it up at least once a year. At first reading i was younger than Amy. Now i am older than Marmie and on my way to Aunt March.
    I have never purchased an audible copy and i realize it is because it is my own voice i hear when i pick up the book and hearing another reader jars me.
    From the begining Beth was my favorite, i wanted to be like her, but in reality i was nothing like her. I had Meg’s domestic aspirations, Jo’s willfulness and fire and Amy’s artistic leanings, but other than being a little shy, Beth and i had nothing in common. But perhaps like Jo who said Beth was “her conscience “, i am drawn to her because her gentle ways are just what i need.
    For those of us who love Louisa, i think we each feel we really understand her and wait for someone like us to make the definitive movie.
    My first Little Women movie was a matinee with Margaret O’Brien as Beth. I have seen all the adaptations and nothing matches my vision perfectly. In this new adaptation i am looking forward to the settings, the costumes and a peek at how someone else sees those four Little Women.

    1. I would love to assemble a dream cast from all the movies, wouldn’t that be fun? I’ll have to do a post about this after the movie comes out and people weigh in. Each adaptation brings something more to the table. And yeah, wouldn’t it be lovely if someone (or a bunch of someones) could do it? Or better, a biopic on Louisa!

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