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Little Women (2019)

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jake Lipson, Aug 13, 2019.

  1. steve jaros

    steve jaros Supporting Actor

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    Saw this today with the wife. First half of the movie was a bustling mess to me - just a blur of dresses and smiles and hugs and meals around the table and breathless yakety-yak. And then on top of that the loopy flashbacks.

    Second half, as the girls grew into more separate and thus easier to follow trajectories, was more enjoyable for me.

    B-
     
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  2. JoeStemme

    JoeStemme Agent

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    When word came out that Greta Gerwig was following up her hugely successful LADY BIRD with an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women it was a bit surprising. Why would the hip Indie queen turned successful Director want to do yet another adaptation of a novel set in the 1860s? One that had been made (officially) at least six times prior into features (not to mention countless TV, stage, radio and other versions)?

    To her credit, Director Gerwig (who also wrote) doesn't just do a straightforward 'Masterpiece Theater' like edition. She doesn't tell Alcott's tale in chronological order and has added bookends to her film. The basic story remains the same: A Massachusetts family of four little women (Jo - Saorise Ronan; Meg - Emma Watson; Amy - Florence Pugh; Beth - Eliza Scanlon), their mother Marmee (Laura Dern) and their often absent father (Bob Odenkirk). Possible suitors for the young ladies include Laurie (Timothy Chalamet) and Frierich (Louis Garrel). Meryl Streep is the prickly Aunt March. All the basic trails and tribulations of the novel are present.

    Where Gerwig departs is not only in the structure, but, also in some of the writing and playing. While Alcott's novel famously portrayed her ladies as stronger and more independent than your typical 1860s young women, Gerwig has added an even more modern take. It's refreshing in some aspects, but it also can draw attention to itself (Amy's speech about the burdens of marriage sticks out like a particular sore thumb*).

    But, it is the structural changes which jump out. By cross-cutting from the beginning of the story to near the end, it alters the rhythms of Alcott's tale. Events which represent the culmination of the narrative, are often enough undercut by the jumbled chronology. Further, Gerwig's jagged construction is rarely smoothly done. The seven year gap between beginning and the end are confusingly bridged. Hair and clothing changes are supposed to act as signals, but, are often ineffective. Even more damaging is what is done to the momentum. The bookends is a charming addition. It's hardly an original thought to have a work of art reference itself, but, it's a nice addition (and actor Tracy Letts performs his bit well).

    LITTLE WOMEN is a pleasant enough diversion. While much of the attempt to 'modernize' it falls rather flat, it has solid acting (Pugh and Ronan continue to make their cases for being the Actresses of their generation; Chris Cooper also deserves mention here), fine cinematography (Yorick LeSaux; on 35mm film), good period Production Design (Jess Gonchor) and a lilting musical score (Alexandre Desplat). Ironically, what makes the film work largely rests with Alcott's sturdy and timeless tale, which resists Gerwig's fussiness. Gillian Armstrong (and Screenwriter Robin Swicord) beat Gerwig to the punch in her excellent 1994 adaptation which managed to give the material a more modern female perspective, without drawing notice and remaining more faithful to the material.


    * Apparently, that scene was added late to the production, to the surprise of even actress Florence Pugh
     
  3. MartinP.

    MartinP. Screenwriter

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    I didn't write this, but I agree with most of it:

    Greta Gerwig wanted to make an American version of "Pride and Prejudice." Well enough, but she shouldn't have titled it "Little Women." Her movie of that title betrays Louisa May Alcott's book.

    As in British adaptations of Jane Austen novels, there is much attention paid to pretty young women, pretty dresses, mansions, and lush landscapes in the US and Europe. Again, as in Jane Austen adaptations, women's lives revolve around men and romance. Who will marry whom? It's a courtship game of musical chairs. You don't want to be the one who is left standing at the end, so you grab the best, richest man you can before someone else grabs him.

    Gerwig wants her characters to appear "woke" amidst all their marriage obsessions, so she has a character deliver a shrill feminist manifesto every ten minutes or so. Amy is given a speech that could have been lifted word for word from Emma Thompson's script for "Sense and Sensibility."

    These speeches are not true to the book or to Louisa May Alcott's life. In fact it was Alcott's male editor, Thomas Niles, who encouraged her to write "Little Women." Her publisher published many women writers, including Emily Dickinson and Julia Ward Howe.

    Even as Gerwig's "Little Women" is built around women yearning for Mr Right, every time a man touches a woman she swats his hand away and shrieks something like, "I don't want you! I want to write! Paint! Pose in this pretty dress!" Denying women's attraction to, and relationships with men isn't feminism, it's brittle, artificial, Hollywood wokeness.

    Because Gerwig's so-called "Little Women" is about romance, the main characters are much older than they are in Alcott's book. In the book, the girls are 12, 13, 15, and 16. In the movie, Saorise Ronan is 25, Emma Watson is 29, Florence Pugh is 24 (and looks 30), and Eliza Scanlen is 21. And boy do these women look like women, not at all like girls.

    What's more, not one of them is American. They belong in an Austen adaptation, not in the original, and prototypical, "American girl" story. No matter how good they are as actresses, they never conjure the brisk, flinty New England soul beneath their costumes and studied American accents. At least Katherine Hepburn, a Yankee, was able to do that in the 1933, George Cukor adaptation.

    Louisa May Alcott was steeped in New England Transcendentalism. This movement was tough and demanding. It's why her family was so poor. They were trying to reach human perfection. The Alcott family lived for a time on a vegetarian commune called Fruitlands that was so strict that they wouldn't even allow themselves to use cattle to plow the land. That self-righteousness is inescapable in Alcott's writing, her life, and "Little Women."

    "Little Women" is not a book about pretty women, pretty dresses, and pretty mansions. It's a book about trying to grow up to be a role model of human ethical excellence. Poverty is a very big theme in "Little Women." This is a book about people surviving starvation, cold, and malnutrition through sheer force of will. Greta Gerwig used stripper Cardi B as inspiration when making her "Little Women." It shows.

    Gerwig, for reasons I can't begin to fathom, decided to tell the story dyslexic style. Scenes are jumbled. A character succumbs, and then is seen alive again. I don't see how this adds anything to the final product.

    I don't know if Meryl Streep is overacting or if everyone around her is underacting, but when she's onscreen you think, "There's Meryl Streep, the great actress." Takes you out of the story. Timothee Chalamet is supernaturally gifted. He is brilliant and quivering with life and believable in every scene he is in. He deserves a much better movie. Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, and Chris Cooper are all terrific as the publisher, the March family patriarch, and the rich next door neighbor. Ironic that the best performances in this man-bashing film are by male actors.
     
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  4. Hollywoodaholic

    Hollywoodaholic Edge of Glory?

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    The script actually makes clearer that some of the final scenes (i.e. Jo running after Freiderich) are fiction; the are what the publisher wanted but not what happened.
     
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  5. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    Who did write it? They seem to have a problem with women generally, and they don't seem aware that Part Two (originally Good Wives) takes place years after Part One.

    I thought the movie itself made that extremely clear. She shot the publisher's desired ending (the book's ending) like a romantic comedy, stylistically and tonally completely different than the rest of the film. And then after the happy ending concludes, we're back in the publisher's office, negotiating royalties.
     
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  6. Bernard McNair

    Bernard McNair Second Unit

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    We saw the film over the weekend and loved every minute of it. The non-linear construction worked for me and made the story most enjoyable. The actresses playing the sisters were great; particularly Ms. Roan. The fact that three of the four actors playing the sisters were not Americans was not a major issue to me as they were convincing. (I can understand some taking umbrage to this as I get annoyed when "foreign"actors play Australians in our local productions.) All in all a really enjoyable film with a great score.
     
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  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    As far as I'm concern, none of the actresses are American even if one was born in the States. It's similar to how I feel about the de Havilland sisters and Elizabeth Taylor. They weren't born in the States, but I consider them American actresses because they were raised here and came up through the Hollywood system.
     
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  8. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    While I appreciate that you don’t take credit for another’s words, at least have the consideration to give credit to the person who did write it!
     
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  9. MartinP.

    MartinP. Screenwriter

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    How so?

    This was a user review using the name Danusha_Goska12 on IMDB under the heading:
    GG's Little Women = Pride and Prejudice + Wokeness - Alcott.
     
  10. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    The description of the March sisters as basically gold diggers, the "shrill feminist manifesto" reference, giving the credit for the novel's success to Alcott's male editor, dimissing Cardi B as a "stripper" when she is in fact a Grammy-winning rapper credited by TIME as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, the dismissiveness toward all of the female performances in favor of the few male performance.
     
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  11. Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    I probably should have stopped reading at, "shrill feminist manifesto". I'm surprised "SJW" didn't make an appearance.

    I found the movie delightful, even with a few shortcomings. But Ronan was absolutely brilliant as Jo. She's the reason I'll probably watch this again. There were some casualties with the flashback and forward chronology
    (eg, Amy falling into the lake has zero tension when you know she survives with no lasting effect),
    but it did spruce up the dusty narrative structure. I watched this movie out of obligation because I couldn't imagine myself really enjoying yet another retelling, but the quality of the performances and Gerwig's changes to the narrative brought the movie to life in a way I never expected.
     
  12. MartinP.

    MartinP. Screenwriter

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    You criticize those comments as not liking women, but not if those comments are valid or not. By the way, Cardi B thinks being a stripper was a positive for her life in many ways, but she herself lists her experience as--Profession: Rapper, Songwriter, Stripper.

    So can one not criticize the film without being labeled someone who hates women? That's what those here have commented on so far. It seems the mere negative discussion of Greta's view toward this film is somehow verboten entirely because she is a woman.

    That review doesn't say that anyone cannot enjoy Gerwig's woke version of Little Women, just that it's not Alcott's version.

    I loved Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird and her screenplay for and acting in Frances Ha. I have liked Ronan in every film I've seen her in except this one. I also disagree with the reviewer's assessment of the males acting in her version, except for what she remarked about Chalamet in it.

    I know if one likes a film one is apt to find something to dismiss another's review who didn't like it, but to dismiss the review I quoted as strictly "women hating" is entirely unfair because, as I'll repeat: "That review doesn't say that anyone cannot enjoy Gerwig's woke version of Little Women, just that it's not Alcott's version."
     
  13. Tino

    Tino Executive Producer
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    I’m struggling to get the desire to go see this film. I really disliked Ladybird but this looks much better. Hopefully next week.
     
  14. Hanson

    Hanson Producer

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    Honestly, if it weren't nominated for an Oscar, I would have skipped it even though I read and heard many rapturous reviews. I was afraid it was going to be fusty and old fashioned but it wasn't. It's also one of those films that grows in estimation over time. I would have given it a B right after watching it but in retrospect I think it's an A.
     
  15. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    I think the comments had a misogynistic undertone, and I also disagreed with the substance of the comments.

    One can absolutely criticize the film without coming across as hating women. But the person in question did came across to me as hating women.

    Alcott's version is on the page. Every adaptation is as much the filmmaker's vision as it is the author's vision. Gerwig's version absolutely reflects her own sensibilities. I don't think it's necessarily any more "woke" than the 1994 version, where Susan Sarandon's Marmee was a fount of feminist thinking, for instance, far more than Laura Dern's Marmee is.

    I didn't dismiss it as misogynistic because it was critical of the film, I dismissed it as misogynistic for the reasons I've already stated.

    I also don't think the arguments presented in the comments are particularly astute, but that's a separate issue from the latent misogyny -- and a matter of opinion.
     
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  16. MartinP.

    MartinP. Screenwriter

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    ^^^

    Not all opinions are created equal, either. This reviewer appears to know a great deal about Alcott's work, her personal circumstances and business attachments. I'd give that more weight than you do. One wonders if misogyny would be an issue with your opinions if you did not like the film. (I notice others who are positive of the film are "liking" your comments.) Hardly anyone brings it up with regard to Scorcese's films, for example. Or perhaps you are thinking that I don't see it as misogynistic because I agree with the critique for the most part?
    Anyway, there's a dozen other versions I can enjoy more.
     
  17. Tino

    Tino Executive Producer
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    Saw it today and enjoyed it.

    Started off a bit weak then picked up for the second and third act. Ronan and Pugh were great. And Timothy Chalamet gave a great performance too. Didn’t mind the non linear trajectory of the film as I’m not that familiar with the story.

    Not sure I would call it one of the years best but it was a good film.

    Ive now seen all the BP nominees except for Ford vs Ferrari which I will see tomorrow.

    Right now I would rank it next to last just ahead of The Irishman.
     
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  18. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

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    Saw it today, and after I scanned this thread, I thought I might've seen it 35mm, mainly because I saw occasional white speckles during the movie. Shouldn't have those with digital.

    But apparently we did - the AMC website says it's a digital presentation!

    So the white speckles were an odd anomaly...
     
  19. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Lead Actor

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    I don't think any AMC theaters have the capability to project film anymore. I'm pretty sure they all migrated over to digital only some years ago.

    My local arthouse, which is independently owned and not part of a chain, is where I saw it. They are the only theater within this part of the state that can show film.
     
  20. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Lead Actor

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    I agree that it was almost certainly digital - but why the white speckles?

    I don't think I've ever seen any specks like that from a digitally projected film in a movie theater!
     

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