Adap­ta­tion is faith­ful to a fault

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - MOVIES - By Katie Walsh

“Lit­tle Women,” Louisa May Al­cott’s tale of sis­ter­hood and hard­ship, is a much beloved story fe­male film­mak­ers have em­braced of­ten over the years. Di­rec­tor Gillian Arm­strong and screen­writer Robin Swicord adapted the book mem­o­rably in 1994, and Os­car-nom­i­nated di­rec­tor Greta Ger­wig an­nounced her next project will be her take on “Lit­tle Women.” There must be some­thing in the ether, be­cause there’s yet an­other ver­sion of “Lit­tle Women” be­ing re­leased, writ­ten and di­rected by Clare Nieder­pruem.

Dis­trib­uted by faith­based movie pur­veyor Pure­flix, this ver­sion is so far the only adap­ta­tion (there’s also a 2017 minis­eries) set in the present day, and while it seems like a fun idea to up­date the tri­als and tra­vails of the March sis­ters, drag­ging the story into the 21st cen­tury shows just how of its era “Lit­tle Women” truly is.

That’s one of the most in­deli­ble mo­ments of the fiery Jo March, played here with vim and vigor by Sarah Davenport. Watch­ing Jo in­tel­lec­tu­ally tus­sle with men and boss around her younger sis­ters, all in the MPAA rat­ing: PG-13 (for some the­matic el­e­ments and teen drink­ing) Run­ning time: 1:52 Opens: Fri­day name of her in­di­vid­u­al­ity and ded­i­ca­tion to the cre­ative life as a writer, you can’t help but re­al­ize, in the harsh light of moder­nity, that Jo truly is a toxic in­di­vid­ual. Or at least this Jo is a self-ag­gran­diz­ing bully who makes you won­der why any­one can stand to be around her. The sis­ters don’t have much of a choice, but the men do — neigh­bor Lau­rie (Lu­cas Grabeel), and Freddy Bhaer (Ian Bo­hen), the editor of Jo’s mis­be­got­ten young adult fan­tasy novel that she es­sen­tially forces him to read.

This “Lit­tle Women” adap­ta­tion is faith­ful to a fault, which re­sults in a very strange world where this group of five present­day women de­pends on men for their so­cial lives and ca­reers. The film du­ti­fully repli­cates story beats from the novel, and as such, brings Civil War-era gen­der pol­i­tics to the story of five un­ruly and highly ed­u­cated women. They might talk about cell­phones and Google, but there’s some­thing dis­tinctly ret­ro­grade about the way the women func­tion in the world, need­ing Lau­rie as an es­cort in the so­cial world, or older male editors as gate­keep­ers for Jo’s cre­ative out­let.

Lea Thomp­son plays the warm and wise Marmee, and she’s lovely in the role. All the per­form­ers are suit­ably al­lo­cated to their per­sonae, though as Jo, Davenport steam­rolls ev­ery­one else on screen. No one can get in a word edge­wise around her, which is sup­posed to be charm­ing and en­chant­ing but is in­stead grat­ing and un­nec­es­sary.

To up­date the story of a group of women in 19th cen­tury Mas­sachusetts strug­gling to get by while the man of the house is away at war, the whole thing needs an over­haul, tak­ing into ac­count the women’s move­ment and the cul­tural shifts in class, la­bor and com­mu­ni­ties that make our world so very dif­fer­ent from mid-19th cen­tury Mas­sachusetts. Does Marmee even have a job? Those con­tex­tual cul­tural shifts have a huge im­pact on the story beats of “Lit­tle Women,” which is very much of its time, and this adap­ta­tion com­pletely bun­gles the up­date.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.