Little Women, a modern adaptation of the classic Louisa May Alcott story opens in theaters, Friday, September 28. I believe I was quite privileged to receive a pre-view of this film and recommend that you see it also, with a few caveats.
Brilliant storytelling is not easy. In the history of the world, men and women who are able to tell stories that capture an audience’s attention are statistically rare. Little Women, the book, is a classic for a reason. The book grips the reader with the stories of the young women in such a way that it makes the reader want to know what is going to happen. The reader is forced to decide whether he or she likes the various characters and why.
The modern adaptation of the story does not fail. I found the layout of the film — jumping from “now” to “the past” and “back to now” to have drawn me in from the start. Like Winnie the Pooh, the characters seem to all have distinct personalities (with little overlap), yet they share a bond that keeps them together, at least most of the time.
It is my opinion that whether you appreciate the details or not, whether you relate to the characters or not, and whether you like the climax and conclusion or not that this story will be enjoyable overall.
The main characters are four sisters, Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth, and their neighbor, Laurie—a young man who visits often and is himself a character I looked up to for his seeming ability to properly react to every situation. The main character is Josephine (Jo), but it is hard to tell from a literary perspective whether she is the protagonist or the antagonist.
As I watched the film, I had a suspicion that the story was at least semi-autobiographical, and this assumption was confirmed after a brief internet search. What was striking is that Alcott did not flatter Jo. In fact, the story oftentimes makes Jo look very bad. In contradistinction to the contemporary practice of “being the hero of all our own stories,” Alcott’s humility shines through as we watch Jo struggle through life.
Although the story seems to center on Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy are each developed well, and with enough time to appreciate them and their struggles and joys. As young ladies they make a pact together to help each other reach their “castle” (their ultimate goal in life) and the real difficulty arises when their respective paths are not always agreed upon. The tension is palpable!
I was encouraged at the beginning as Jo clutched a copy of John Bunyan’s A Pilgrim’s Progress. Beth wears a cross necklace and the girls are home-schooled, and so I naively thought the movie may end up being Christian. Although The Gospel Coalition will no doubt find the gospel message there, I saw nothing of the sort.
But what you do see is a striking example of the goodness of God as manifested in the innate knowledge all men and women have of Him and His law. Jo is a feminist — and it is not hidden, yet what you see in the movie is scene after scene depicting the despair and hopelessness that accompanies such a godless worldview. Even a pagan cannot tell a story where pagan virtues prevail…
As I pointed out earlier, in a sense, Jo is the antagonist of the story. She is the one you find yourself not rooting for to have success in her own plans. At first, I thought the woman who played Jo was “over-acting.” But as the story continued, and I started to see the development of her character, I realized her acting was spot on. She was overly dramatic and self-centered, with a hubris that can only be followed by disgrace. (Prov 11:2) Yet you receive glimmers of hope for her by her show of love toward her sisters and parents and a few other things I won’t spoil.
There are two scenes in this movie that depict people kissing. In each case, I wish it could have been faked so that the actors did not defile themselves with someone not their spouse. Both scenes were too long and could have easily communicated the point with less graphic depiction of what was going on.
There are some scenes where teenagers are at a party and there is obvious drinking going on. The partying isn’t glorified at all, but it’s notable that this story is probably not safe for a child with whom you have not had the talk. If you are sensitive to that type of thing or don’t want your child to see a guy groping a lady while trying to kiss her in a school hallway, this movie would not be for you.
All in all, it was an enjoyable story with good acting and good filmography. You will encounter more sexuality and immodesty during commercials of your average football game or TV show, so unless you boycott media entirely, what little was done in poor taste probably isn’t enough to keep you from enjoying what this film has to offer.