Little Women (2018) Review (Mild Spoilers)

One fact about me that might surprise you is I was actually a late reader. My strabismus in my eyes makes it hard for me to focus; thereby making reading difficult. I would say I was 7 or 8 when I really learned to read, which isn’t unheard of, but a little late (especially because my kindergarten teachers were ‘you must read at 5’ gestapo).

Once I caught on to reading I loved it and dove in and the first book I remember being proud of finishing was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It was emotional and I could relate to each of the girls in special ways especially Jo. Her and Anne of Green Gables were the heroes of my childhood!

Over the years there have been many film versions of Little Women including a classic from 1933 with Kathryn Hepburn, wonderful version from 1994 starring Winona Ryder and a ridiculous 1949 take with a grown Elizabeth Taylor playing a blonde little girl Amy. Now we have a supposedly “modern telling” of the story from director and writer Clare Niederpruem and it, unfortunately, was very disappointing.

I honestly had high hopes for this adaptation because Niederpruem did a lovely little film in 2015 called Once I Was a Beehive. It handled themes and messaging much better than many faith-based films and was well made and acted. I was also hopeful I would love it because I did not care for the recent PBS version of Little Women. Evidently it’s just not my year for Little Women in film!

little women

Let me start off with some strengths. I like the idea of modernizing Little Women and telling the 4 sister’s stories with a modern sensibility (one of my favorite movies is Clueless which does that brilliantly with updating Jane Austen’s Emma). There are also some nice moments between the girls and overall the movie looked nice.

I also enjoyed Lea Thompson as Marmee (even though it is a little strange that the Lawrences and everyone calls her Marmee instead of Mrs March). She wasn’t in the movie that much (I’m guessing they only had her on site for a few days) but when she appears there is a warmth that is required for Marmee (who is basically the perfect Mother of fiction).

I also thought Allie Jennings did a good job with Beth and Ian Bohen was pretty dishy as our Professor Bhaer (just called Freddy here).

My problem mostly lies with the script. The choices they made to ‘modernize’ the characters were frustrating. Jo (Sarah Davenport) isn’t the free spirit I know and love. In here she’s a bully who is mean, entitled and insulting to everyone around her. This is the only version I’ve seen where I felt like Jo deserved to have her journal burned by Amy. All Amy had done is ask to go to a movie with them and Jo proceeds to insult Amy’s art and call her names. She does that repeatedly throughout the film, and I honestly wanted someone to slap her and get her off screen! To say she is insufferable is being kind.

And then the choices they made for Meg (Melanie Stone) were baffling. For some reason they have all the girls being homeschooled and it’s never really explained why? I’m a huge homeschool advocate so that normally wouldn’t be a problem but here they use it as a reason for why Meg is socially awkward. Instead of just wanting to fit in with the cool kids she dresses in a skanky dress, gets drunk and is nearly assaulted by a boy at a school dance. I guess this could be a way to update the Sally Moffatt party but it was executed in a clunky way that did not fit the movie at all.

The debates between Meg, over her domestic dreams, and Jo, over her feminist ideals, were also hard to get through. Feminism done right is about embracing all forms of womanhood and empowering girls to lead whatever life they want. We needed Marmee in these scenes explaining this to Jo and being warm and loving. Instead it was a strange shouting match.

Laurie played by Lucas Grabeel was also a miss. There was no chemistry between him and Jo and the relationship with Amy (Elise Jones and Taylor Murphy) was rushed. Also for various reasons, I thought they were going to make him gay, which would have been an interesting take on the character, but they didn’t so that felt strange. little women3

I also hated the non-linear structure of the movie. Similar to movies like Man of Steel it flashes back and forth to different times in the girls lives. This hurt momentum and didn’t allow the scenes to build off of each other. They also made the choice to go with 2 different Amys (which many do) but if you are going to do that, a flashback structure is awkward (also they use the younger Amy in scenes that don’t make sense if they are using 2).

In the end, I’m sad I didn’t like Little Women. I wanted to like it. I wanted to champion a sweet locally filmed movie and tell you all to hunt it down. Sadly I cannot. Jo was just too much of a jerk for me to recommend.

If any of you see it let me know what you think and what is your favorite version of Little Women?


18 thoughts on “Little Women (2018) Review (Mild Spoilers)

  1. i mean it’s like stereotype that well-dressed guys are gay, so like… i feel like that’s not the best thing to point out???? idk. i enjoyed your review, and i definitely want to see this movie!

    1. I know. I debated about including that but it really felt like they were heading that way and so it made those scenes feel awkward

      1. Cool. I always encourage people to see for themselves and decide. My main problem was the nonlinear narrative and Jo being a jerk

  2. This is the first negative review I have read of this film and I am not surprised. I thought the whole idea to transfer the Little Women world to modern times was a bit ludicrous. I suppose now we should wait for Gone with the Wind shot in modern times. I think Little Women had the charm because it also reminds of the times gone and the context of the Civil War and how Jo has to survive professionally in the world dominated by men.

    1. Yeah my sister said the same thing. I’ve never thought of Little Women as being so tied to the time but I think you might be right

  3. Really thorough review, Smilingldsgirl! Speaking of Anne of Green Gables, I just watched L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: Fire & Dew recently and I really enjoyed it! I don’t know what your thoughts are on these newer adaptations of the Anne of Green Gables story, but this movie is one of the best films I saw this year (so far)!

  4. Little Women is one of my favorite books but I was really skeptical about this version. Based on your review I’ll probably stick with my decision to skip it for now.

  5. Little Women has never been of much interest to me, having never read the book (well, maybe an abridged version when I was younger), but it’s sad that this adaptation missed the mark. Not sure why you say it’s a small local film, because Food Network was showing the trailer over and over recently here on the east coast.
    Greta Gerwig is supposedly working on an adaptation as well (set in the 1800s as it should be) with Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, and Saoirse Ronan, so that has my interest more than this one.

    1. Interesting. It was made locally and my understanding was it only got 600 theater rollout which isnt nothing but something like Smallfoot or Night School over 3000 so I’d say it is small and it is locally made

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