Last week, my best friend and I went to see the newest adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. This version is much different from the rest because it has a modern setting, rather than the Civil War-era setting prescribed by the book.
For those of you who have never read the book or seen a film adaptation: do it. The book is fantastic, although it is rather long, and most film adaptations do an adequate job of portraying it. (The best one to see in my opinion would be the 1994 version with Christian Bale and Wynona Rider.) To give you a brief summary: Little Women is the story of four sisters–Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy–who grow up during/right after the Civil War, and shows their struggles and triumphs throughout this turbulent time.
I was a little nervous going in simply because there were so many ways it could have been ruined by putting it in modern times. I was pleasantly surprised by how amazing it was. The heart of the story is still there, even though they had to change a lot of things for it to work.
Like many other film adaptations, the story focuses on Jo (full name Josephine), the second-oldest sister. Jo is a fiery-tempered writer who loves her sisters and her parents fiercely, although she may not always show it. This version goes back and forth between present time (showing Jo as a 29-year-old struggling to get her work published while she lives with her aunt in New York) and her flashbacks of different periods during the girls’ lives. Ordinarily, I really hate flashback movies, but I think it was well-done in this case.
One thing to know about this movie is that if you have any kind of heart at all, you will cry. ***SPOILER ALERT IF YOU DO NOT ALREADY KNOW THE STORY*** Jo is, of course, very close with the third sister, Beth (Elizabeth). If you’re familiar with the story, you know Beth dies partway through the story. In this adaptation, the cause of her death is cancer (leukemia, to be precise), and it is heart-breaking. I cried, very hard. You probably will, too. ***SPOILER ENDED***
There were a couple things I didn’t like about the movie. The first has to do with Meg. You may or may not know/remember that when she is about sixteen or so, Meg goes to a party at her friend Sally Moffat’s house. Set in the Civil War era, that’s fine. Set in modern times, you get some stuff you don’t necessarily expect to see in Little Women. There is a fair amount of drinking involved, and Meg definitely lets one guy feel her up, but nothing really graphic happens.
The second thing I didn’t like has more to do with personal preference. The Marches’ next door neighbor, Laurie, is played by Lucas Grabeel. If you don’t know who he is, he played Ryan Evans, Sharpay’s brother, in the High School Musical movies. It makes it very strange to see him as a character that I love, and it just didn’t sit right with me.
Other than that, this adaptation of Little Women was well done. (Actually, I take that back. Professor Bhaer is supposed to be German and have a thick accent, and he had no accent whatsoever). That being said, they did a good job of changing the story to fit a different time period. It’s definitely something I’m willing to watch again.