It’s a big week for Little Women, wielding 6 Academy Award nominations in this, its latest notable rendition. But, is this latest version worthy of all the acclaim? It begs the question, why do we need one more version of this centuries-old tale? Didn’t Katherine Hepburn do it well enough in 1933? Or perhaps, like me, the 90’s version with Winona Ryder as Jo is the one you remember well? Chances are, regardless of which generation you claim, my guess is you’ve seen one (or all) of these on the silver screen. You might even count it among your favorite books as well; pages worn and tattered from years of enjoyment.
Up for 6 Academy Award nominations, including best picture, Saoirse Ronan is up for Best Actress and Florence Pugh for Best Supporting Actress. America is still in love with this story. After all, it’s truly timeless. And the fresh adaptation provides an ideal environment for these terrific actors to shine. Like Ronan, Winona Ryder in the 1994 iteration received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress. Though the script varies from film to film, it is Jo March, the central character that seems most affected by the variations.
In director Greta Gerwig’s current adaptation of Little Women, Ronan delivers a superb performance as Jo. That said, I believe the overall adaptation does not live up to its predecessors in depth and breadth. I left the theater feeling good and spirits lifted, but not wowed. While excellent in cinematography, costumes and witty repartee, it was somehow off. It lacked some of the complexity and authenticity of the 1994 version. I suppose it’s a bit like the shift in our culture and society, slightly more concerned with the visual than with the heart. But even with that, Gerwig and the cast do an amazing job depicting a slightly different perspective while maintaining the timeless and always very timely story.
The 2019 release of Little Women was the 6th adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott novel of the same name. This timeless classic novel adorns the shelves of many a bookcase. Beloved by girls and boys of all ages in countless countries around the globe. And why you ask — what’s the big appeal? What is it about these women that keep us coming back for more? Again and again, we flock to the theaters or pay-per-view eagerly seeking to be swept up in the triumphs and trials of this simple family from a bygone era. We never seem to tire of it. In fact, we can’t seem to get enough. And with every new generation comes another audience captivated by the adventures of Jo March and her sisters.
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Immersing yourself in this wonderful story transports you to a different time and drops you right in the center of this cozy, chatty gaggle of women doing life and family in the 1800s. When you arrive in their simple home, filled with laughter and love, who do you imagine you are? Are you Jo, the boldly independent writer with a restless soul? Or perhaps Meg, the eldest, or Beth, the most fragile. Do you actually admit it out loud if you most identify with Amy, the self-indulgent, self-centered beauty? We see a bit of ourselves in each of the characters. The essence of femininity — multi-layered, deliciously complex, yet simple truth of a woman’s heart and spirit.
The powerful draw of Little Women is that it is so much more than just another tale tugging at our heartstrings. It is a magnificent tapestry of layered characters woven into each other’s lives not only through blood but through a deep and genuine love for each other. A profound love and steadfast commitment to each other, so rare and rich, that it beckons us to come closer. We long to know the mystery of this love, reaching deep into the recesses of our hearts.
In knowing these women, we get to peek inside our authentic selves. We long to see more of this self. Be more of this self — the softer, kinder, gentler self. When we are lost in this place, we experience the true meaning of love that goes far beyond our feelings. Love, at its core, is a commitment to stand by, to cherish, to encourage and often to endure others in our lives regardless of the promises broken and the wounds inflicted. The March family portrays this kind of love.
Peering in from above, we glimpse a slice of daily life with idyllic relationships that may not resemble our own. From this lens, hope is stirred and a longing to experience more of such relationships in our world. Wouldn’t it be grand if our own lives manifested such harmony? The sheer joy and appreciation for meaningful relationships that support us through every season of our life. Every generation, from the tiniest girl to the most regal grandmother, needs to be touched by this authentic expression of unconditional love. It is this hope and expectation that keeps us coming back, decade after decade, for more Little Women.