Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Movie #365: Little Women

Little Women is a period drama based on the novel(s) by Louia May Alcott and starring (deep breath) Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Samantha Mathis, Trini Alvarado, Christian Bale, Gabriel Byrne, and Mary Wickes.

So, to preface, I haven't read the books, so I have no idea how close the source material this movie is (you can basically assume that's the case until we get to Shawshank Redemption, honestly). The movie tells the story of the March family. Mrs. March (Sarandon) is bringing up four very lovely girls; her husband (Matthew Walker) is away at war, and her family is a little weird in general - they're transcendentalists, a little more egalitarian than the other folks, and Mrs. March holds with newfangled ideas like "teachers shouldn't hit their students" and "women should be educated."

The movie is narrated by her second-eldest daughter, Jo (Ryder), who writes schlocky Gothic stories. Her older sister, Meg (Alvarado) is probably the most proper and reserved of the bunch. Third daughter Beth (Danes) is...well, we don't actually learn all that much about her personally; her role in the story is to get very ill and provide a way to bring arguing people together and then, later, to die in order to get family back together. Youngest daughter Amy (Dunst, and then Mathis as an adult) wants to grow up and marry a rich dude, and she's kind of a brat in general.

The story doesn't have one consistent throughline; it's basically the story of the family told over the space of about a decade. They meet Teddy, the strange lad next door (Bale) who immediately becomes like a brother to them and eventually proposes to Jo, but winds up marrying Amy; Beth (as mentioned) gets sick with scarlet fever and eventually dies because of the damage it does to her; Meg marries Teddy's tutor (Eric Stoltz), and Jo goes off to New York to be a teacher for the children of an innkeeper and winds up meeting and marrying a German philosopher (Byrne, who's in like 20 minutes of the movie and so I don't know why he got second billing after Ryder).

For as long of a movie as it is and as much ground as it covers, it feels pretty light and is paced really well. It also does a really good job of portraying the March family as weird - sometimes that's good and sometimes it's embarrassing (for the girls), but they have a strong sense of family loyalty that gets challenged and strengthened. The story also at least addresses the idea that women are nothing but decorative or wife/mother material (though of course the three surviving March sisters do marry; on the gripping hand, they all marry on their own terms, so yay?).

I dunno. All in all it's a good movie, but it's not the kind of thing I'm interested in watching over and over again.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: Live & Let Die