Little Women – The 2020 Movie Adaptation

Last night I took the eldest to see Little Women.  I had recently read the book, but eldest had not.  It was a fun evening out, but I do have some thoughts on the movie to share.

The way that the novel was adapted was fine if you have read it, but prepare to be a bit confused if you haven’t read it or if it has been a while since you read it.  They jump back and forth in time between the childhood and adulthood years of the girls.  The transitions are not clear, and they used the same actors for both time periods without really accounting for shifts in appearance between the two time frames.  The most glaring example of this is the use of the same actor for Amy despite the fact that she is 12 in the beginning of the novel and a grown and married woman at the end.  They could have at least altered the girls’ appearance to show the passage of time.

The constant back and forth between childhood episodes and adult episodes also made it difficult for those new to the story to follow the storyline.  There are important connections between childhood events and adulthood events, but these were easily missed.  I actually started getting annoyed with this by the end of the movie.  A great movie adaptation can encourage more people to read the book.  Perhaps this one will as well, if only to help people understand the connections between the different events depicted in the movie.

Many episodes from the girls’ lives were depicted in the movie, but they were out of context and were not given the time to fully develop.  It felt like sorting through a series of snapshots completely out of order and with no context to the different events.  The narrative thread of the novels is completely missed as are the different themes and messages.  The writer/director team would have been better served to follow the narrative thread from beginning to end and allowing the viewer to see how the different events connected.

My final critique is that you had many amazing actors in this movie, but they were harmed by a lack of character development in the adaptation/script.  The characters in the novel are rich and deep characters that you grow to love.  While the actors portraying the different characters did a phenomenal job with the content that they had to work with, the depth of characters is not fully seen in the movie.  They just never had the time to develop the characters properly.

A better adaptation might have started with highlights from the girls’ adult lives and then gone back to the beginning and traced the narrative chronologically to show how they got there.  Show the connections between the scenes and episodes in the girls’ lives.  Show how the characters evolve and change over time.  Take the time to fully develop the scenes and episodes without leaving out some of the important secondary characters.  Help the viewer see how the adult characters grew and changed over time.  This is the beauty of the novel, and it is completely missed in the movie adaptation.

All of that being said, the actors did a phenomenal job.  Each clearly understood their character and the character development over the course of the book.  I think they did a great job with the material they had.  It is unfortunate that such phenomenal actors were not given the challenging work of character development that occurs in the novel.  I think that would have produced an amazing movie.  I would see it again, and I did enjoy the movie.  I just have some lingering frustrations.

Now, back to reading!

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