Little Women 2019 was a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT!

Well, Hollywood has done it again. They’ve ripped the heart and soul out of a classic story and called it an adaptation. Much like how Anne With an E, decided to go in the gritty and grim direction (and practically discarded the heartwarming story it was based on). This time though, it’s not so much darker (though there is a murky edge to the adult scenes) as it is all about “feminism”. And by that I mean, the angry, twisted, bitter kind with an undertone of man-hating. Great. Just what we needed.

Look, I get it. Little Women has so so many adaptations already that it’s hardly surprising the writers wanted to change things up and go in a different direction. Only, the logical thing to do in my book would be to *write a different story*. Not hijack something well loved and destroy it. But here we are- because Hollywood gotta make that coin and nothing sells like ruining everything we love.

What amazed me more than anything was how they desecrated the characters. They did them all dirty- but for some reason the worst changes were reserved for Marmee of all people. The loving matriarch is barely recognisable in this version- with a simmering resentment and rage under the surface… Because that’s what we needed?! I don’t understand what it is about “feminist” writers these days who seem to think anger is the solution to everything. Not grace or kindness or anything typically feminine. This is a Marmee stripped of love- who says to her wounded husband back from the war “now I can be angry at you in person”. This is a story that celebrates vice over virtue- the very antithesis of the original story. And characters like Marmee are just used as voice pieces for modern views.   

And then there’s what they did to Jo. Ironically, despite this supposedly focusing on more of the March sisters as a whole, this story is framed by Jo’s writing endeavours. For some reason, there was an ongoing focus on how it would be consistent for her not to fall in love and marry (something it’s not that hard to imagine for such a big-hearted character) but somehow not inconsistent for her to change her mind about Laurie?! Even though, it’s really clear from the story how different and ill-suited they actually are. And never mind that it ends up ruining Amy’s romance. And that it makes Jo seem petty for trying to take him back after rejecting him. And it throws a grenade into the heart of the sisterhood (which THIS MOVIE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HIGHLIGHTING MORE GAH!!) It’s a weird and unnecessary change that doesn’t work.

Add in the terrible deconstructed ending, where the kiss in the rain is purely imagination and you’ve got yourself a depressing version. Yes, shocker, we like happy endings here. It’s far better than whatever they were going for with this cold, bleak, sad conclusion that left me wanting. As beautiful as it is to see a book come together, I don’t love this story for its take on ambition. I love it for the joy and the wonder and the fact that reading about this family feels like a warm hug. Incidentally that’s why it works so well that the book starting with a small-scale scene of the little women playing. We feel like we’ve stepped into their world. This, with its choppy structure and disrespect to the original characters, is a miserable reimagining of something beautiful- and we don’t need it.

Rating: banana peel

So, have you seen this adaptation? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

32 thoughts on “Little Women 2019 was a BIG DISAPPOINTMENT!

    1. I know!!! That was so so bizarre!! Why would you do that?! It made it super weird whenever she was supposed to act like a child and made all her behaviour so much less understandable. I just don’t understand why they couldn’t do what they do in every other version and have different actresses for the different ages.

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  1. I really tried to make it through the book Little Women. I tried several times. It just wasn’t for me at all. It was so happy and cutesy and…yech, not my jam. It was so sweet it made me nauseous. Every time I tried to read it, I made it a littler farther, but I’ve never gotten more than a few chapters in. The sisters are just so corny and goody-goody.
    But that’s just me. I’m just sharing my thoughts on the book. I know a lot of other people love it.
    It does sound like they changed a lot about it, and yeah, feminism has become very obnoxious. That’s why I don’t consider myself a feminist anymore. Feminists don’t have a monopoly on the idea of equality. I can believe in equality between the genders without aligning myself with all the feminist baggage. Especially pop-culture mainstream feminism…it really has become all about denigrating traditional femininity, and that’s just another more insidious form of misogyny.

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    1. That’s fair, you’re perfectly entitled to not enjoy the book 🙂 (funnily enough that does make me think that the problem with the adaptation is that the people making it didn’t really like the book either… which just makes me wonder all the more why they chose to adapt it).

      Very much agree with you.

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  2. Spot on! My wife loves this book, and we both thought that this adaptation was a travesty. If a director wants to ride their hobby horse or preach on their soapbox, that’s their right, but they shouldn’t pervert someone else’s story to do it!

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  3. It’s been many, many years since I read the book so I can’t really comment on the changes made in this adaptation but I have watched it and did not enjoy it. I found the whole thing dull and uninteresting. There wasn’t really a single likeable character. They were all just meh.

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  4. I…didn’t like this adaptation. Mainly because it it’s too “artsy” for me, with the time jumps and the ambiguous ending. It doesn’t, as you say, have the comfort of the source text. I had to really work to understand what was happening, and I ended up narrating the plot for the friend who watched it with me. They hadn’t read the book and so weren’t always sure if we were watching Jo’s present or past. I only knew because I’ve read the book so often.

    I think part of the film seeming more progressive than the actual book is that the creators were drawing on Alcott’s biography. I think Alcott’s mother was likely ahead of her time, as was Alcott. But the tone certainly doesn’t match that of the book, where Alcott’s ideas are presented more subtly, and different paths of womanhood are presented as equally desirable and valid. In the book, Jo’s ambition is lauded, but so is Meg’s love for the domestic life.

    But modern adaptations do seem to have some fixation with Jo as the “heroine,” and so treat her sisters as side characters to her story. When, in fact, the book is about ALL of the sisters, and how their lives intertwine. Admittedly, the book does favor Jo’s perspective towards the end, but I think that’s in part because she’s the least settled. Meg is happily married. Amy is pursuing her artistic dreams, supported emotionally and financially by the family. Jo is left alone, needing to earn her own money, feeling sad for herself and not sure if she’ll ever get the life she wants, and perhaps a bit bitter that her sisters did. And it’s this really depressing bit that makes the happy ending with Prof. Bhaer seem so rewarding, at least for me. Jo finds someone who loves her! She’s not alone! She hasn’t lost her family. She’s just expanding it.

    That’s not to say that Jo “needs” a man to be happy or fulfilled or anything. I understand the desire to show an independent, unmarried Jo happily writing away for the rest of her life. But I think the movie does need to locate Jo within some sort of happy relationship at the end to feel cathartic and happy for the viewers–even if that relationship is not Prof. Bhaer, but her place with her sisters and her parents. The whole story is about how relationships sustain and support us, and it just feels weird for the ending to be Jo alone.

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    1. I completely agree that it was too artsy. I don’t like time jumps just for the sake of it. Funnily enough I felt confused at what was going on… and I’ve read the book a few times!

      Yeah I get that they were drawing on Alcott’s biography- but I still felt like they missed the mark with how they understood her ideas. Like you said, Alcott showed that different paths of womanhood were valid. And it also did create a tonal mismatch.

      That’s true. And yes I completely agree!! The ending gives such a positive message that her perseverance is rewarded in every way. And even if her falling in love wasn’t what Alcott originally intended, it was such a beautiful ending that worked for the story (sometimes the suggestion from editors are one hundred percent right!) I think it’s sad to strip the story of that. And yes, I never got the impression that she *needed* to get married- however she’s shown to be quite lonely and would benefit from the love of someone who truly understands her. Absolutely!

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      1. Yeah, I definitely had to work hard to keep that plotline straight! And it didn’t feel like it added anything to the story, for me. Usually time jumps have to do with memory or how we perceive past events and how they affect the current situation. I didn’t get any of that from this movie. It was just, as you said, jumping around for the sake of it.

        And, yeah, I think it’s a mistake to pin Alcott’s ideas fully onto Jo. Jo may have been inspired by Alcott, but the author is NOT her character, and I don’t know that I like seeing that mistake perpetuated and reinforced in the film.

        Yeah, I think being single is totally a valid lifestyle and one that can be celebrated. I just don’t like when it’s celebrated in a way that suggests that marriage is not to be celebrated. Both are good! And I think Alcott would agree with that!

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  5. Oh wow! I feel like we watched this completely differently haha I adore this movie with all my heart and nothing about the ending was bleak or sad for me. It all fitted so well in terms of where the characters ended and Jo not getting married was something Louisa May Alcott wanted to write in her book but wasn’t allowed, from what I remember. I agree that it heavily focused on Jo and pushed a couple other characters aside. However, I especially enjoyed the anachronistic approach and the color grading depending on which “time” we were focusing on. But that’s the beauty of things like movies and books, two people can read or watch something and feel completely different about it 🙂

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    1. haha that’s ok! I get that about Jo- but disagree with that decision for a few reasons: 1) it’s not how the actual book turned out and 2) while sometimes an author’s intentions can be better (eg the original ending for great expectations makes so much more sense) I have always thought the happy ending served little women best. It’s not the perfect ending, but there’s lots to like about it. And even if they didn’t like that ending (which would have muted a lot of the joy of the ending), then they shouldn’t, in my opinion have included the character of Frederick, only to undermine it, because that in my opinion was an annoying bait and switch. That’s true 🙂

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  6. I didn’t hate the movie — I actually liked some parts quite a bit. But, the change-up of the timeline made no sense to me. I suppose most viewers know the basics of the story already, but why ruin the surprise of Amy’s relationship with Laurie right from the start? And the ending… I don’t know, it did disturb me. I get that it was supposed to reflect Louisa May Alcott’s intentions and life, but it was disconcerting. And as much as I like Florence Pugh as an actress, she was very miscast as Amy. They should have considered bringing in an age-appropriate actress for the younger scenes, which might have made them more compelling.

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    1. Yes!! I agree the timeline shift was the worst part about it. and yes, I found the ending really disappointing, because even if it was what (might) have been intended, it’s not what the story actually was/what worked for the story, which sucked. I really agree with you about Pugh- it makes no sense to cast an adult as a 12 year old, because by doing that they made all her childish actions look unforgivable and weird. I don’t know why they couldn’t do what they do in every other adaptation and have two different actresses.

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  7. LOL I would totally agree with you, however I abandoned watching it after about 20 minutes so I don’t know how it unfolded!! I just hated how it began with so much gloom. 90s adaptation all the way 😀

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