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Film Review: LITTLE WOMEN

Film Poster: LITTLE WOMEN
Film Poster: LITTLE WOMEN

Chalamet is a disaster as the object of desire of 2 of the Little Women. He’s like the fifth sister hugging his knees and prancing around. He’s prettier and thinner than his co-stars. The March sisters are bores. They keep complaining about not being rich.

I never read the iconic, beloved “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. I was raised in a house of books so I was reading Henry Miller and Dostoevsky. It wasn’t a snobbish home of intellectuals; my mother preferred books to my father.
Now that I have seen Greta Gerwig’s adaptation, which must be intended to mine the “we of the Frozen generation  must be true to our own self-interests”, if I had read it, I would have wanted all the March girls to die.

Why Greta, why this? What was the pitch? Were there demographics and charts calling for the March girls?

Or was it all about those tiny waists and Scarlett O’Hara dresses?

LITTLE WOMEN takes place in the 1860s. The patriarch of the March family (Bob Odenkirk) is away fighting in the Civil War. His flighty, happy-go-lucky wife, Marmee (Laura Dern), is at home with their four daughters: Jo (Saoirse  Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Elisa Scanlen).

The March family lives in the sweet spot of Concord, Massachusetts, right across from the mansion of Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper). He recently lost his wife and is the guardian of his silly grandson, Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Timothee Chalamet). He is rightly concerned Laurie will turn out to be a luck-less riverboat gambler or an actor. He has employed  a live-in tutor, John Brooke (James Norton), to teach Laurie to read.

Oh, I get it! Theodore has a girl’s name and Josephine has a boy’s name! So Alcott was saying something entirely different! The people in her saga were not fighting the oppressive role of women in society, but the underlying struggle for everyone to be their “authentic self.”

Alcott remained single throughout her life. She explained her “spinsterhood” in an interview, “I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body. … because I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man.” However, Alcott’s romance while in Europe with the young Polish man, Ladislas “Laddie” Wisniewski, was detailed in her journals but then deleted by Alcott herself before her death. Alcott identified Laddie as the model for Laurie in “Little Women.”

Film Image: LITTLE WOMEN
Film Image: LITTLE WOMEN

If the March family is struggling during the Civil War, it’s hard to sympathize with them. They have a live-in housekeeper, Hannah (Jayne Houdyshell), a big house and their table is stacked with food. Mrs. March is always eager to help her unfortunate neighbors with food and is always helping returning soldiers. Laura Dern’s Mrs. March resides in her own movie.

In spite of all the feminist rhetoric, the March women end up happily ever after in committed relationships with men: (No spoiler alert-you all read the book!). Mrs. March never even glances at the rich widow but should have just in case Mr. March fails to make it back from the front. She waits as a dutiful wife and is rewarded with his return; Meg, who is so unhappy being poor and not having nice things, finally accepts that she really loves John Brooke; Amy, the family’s only hope to marry a rich man, finally takes love over money and marries rich Laurie. Jo’s Greek suitor, Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel), visits Concord and states his love for Jo. He stays and works with (or for) her. According to a brief summary of the book that I read,  Jo and Friedrich marry but Gerwig skips over this. Jo marrying would ruin the film’s message and defeat the feminist agenda.

The way Gerwig directed the flimsy Beth storyline, I was hoping Beth would slip into Mr. Laurence’s bed. The piano Mr. Laurence gifted Beth would have certainly put Aunt March’s (Meryl Streep) tongue firmly in her cheek.

Those sappy, fictional romantic leads of yesteryear, Heathcliff and Dorsey, were always portrayed by actors of a certain visible masculinity. I am well aware of Chalamet’s glorious cinematic trajectory, but his management is misguided in its plan to create a teenage heartthrob star, or is the plan to situate him for a “k-pop like”side gig?

Was Gerwig too invested in her female cast to notice the lack of sexual charisma in her male stars? Even James Norton, whose sexual appeal is evident in his atavistic series, McMafia, flops around. The  exception is Chris Cooper, who used every trick in Stanislavski’s “An Actor Prepares.”

What a missed opportunity for Gerwig to showcase the subtleties of constructing sexual content or at least to discover the next Brad Pitt!

Timothee Chalamet is not the second coming of Brad Pitt. (I tried to watch Chalamet’s starring role in Netflix’s THE KING. He looked as if he should have been carrying the King’s water.)

I probably misunderstood LITTLE WOMEN and only saw the incongruity of Gerwig’s adaptation. Instead of yearning to make it on their own, Meg gives up her dream of being an artist since she is aware she is not talented and Amy abandons her dream of becoming an actress. What kind of feminist message is this? Jo does become a successful writer but once she inherits a grand house and money, her struggle to be recognized is over. The March women seem to have just been keeping busy waiting for a rich man to come along or a rich relative to die. Even with their lofty talk, they all ended up safely in the arms of convention.

Meryl Streep’s cameo was awful.

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Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/. Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com. For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/author/author-3571/ Contributing to: FilmsInReview: http://www.filmsinreview.com FilmFestivalToday: http://filmfestivaltoday.net Las Vegas Informer Group: LVInformer.com Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org

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