Little Women (2019) is the movie I’ve been wanting to see since I first heard about it. Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Emma Watson, and Merryl Streep play some of the main characters in this film. When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, there was an animated series called “Little Women” that fascinated me. Unfortunately, I had a tuition class at the same time and could hardly ever watch it. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name – a story about four sisters named Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth. This movie reminded me of my unfinished childhood business!
The story of Little Women
Josephine March, also known as Jo, was the oldest daughter in her family and an aspiring writer. She visited Mr. Dashwood, an editor, to publish one of her stories. Jo was both a teacher and writer by profession and passion.
Meanwhile, another sister named Amy lived in Paris with her aunt while attending art classes on the side. During this time, she reunited with Laurie – their childhood friend and neighbor. However, Amy was shocked to find that Laurie had become a drunken mess.
In their brief encounter, Laurie mocked Amy for pursuing a rich man named Fred Vaughn for marriage. Amy expressed her disapproval of Laurie wasting his grandfather’s riches and not making anything valuable of himself.
While staying in NYC, Jo met a German professor named Friedrich Bhaer. Jo showed some of her work to Friedrich as a trusted friend. However, his direct and critical feedback made Jo furious. She snatched all her writings and stomped out of his sight.
On the same day, Jo received a letter from home informing her about her sister Beth’s sickness. Without telling Friedrich anything, she left immediately for home.
We’re taken back to the childhood memories of these girls. Jo met Laurie at a party where they both tried to avoid social interactions. They vibed effortlessly and became good friends. The mother of the girls, affectionately called Marmee, was kind despite their financial struggles. She asked her daughters to give away their entire breakfast to a very poor neighbor (Mrs. Hummel and her starving children). Upon returning home, the girls were pleasantly surprised by a table full of delectable meals sent by their affluent neighbor Mr. Laurence (Laurie’s grandfather). The father was fighting in the American Civil War, so Jo read to Aunt March hoping she would be pleased with her enough for an invitation to Europe.
Laurie’s tutor, John, became interested in Meg. One night, Jo and Meg went to a local theater with Laurie and John. Amy was upset that she wasn’t included and burned Jo’s writings out of revenge. The sisters had a huge fight when Jo returned home. Later, Jo went ice-skating on a frozen lake with Laurie while Amy followed them to make amends with Jo. While they were joking around, Amy fell into the water through a crack but Jo and Laurie saved her. The sisters reconciled after the incident.
Mr. Laurence had a soft spot for Beth, the youngest March sister, as she reminded him of his late daughter. He asked Beth to play his piano and eventually gifted it to the family so she could play whenever she wanted. Jo and Laurie became close friends while Amy grew fond of him. Meg married John and Aunt March decided to take Amy to Europe instead of Jo. Laurie proposed to Jo but was rejected and friend-zoned because free-spirited Jo was focused on pursuing her passion for writing rather than marriage.
While Marmee was out volunteering, only Beth checked on their poor neighbors. Sadly, the family had a highly contagious fever and Beth contracted it during her visit. A few days later, she began showing symptoms and has been very sickly ever since.
The girls remember a Christmas, when their father came home after long time, Beth was still fighting with her fever.
Grown-up Amy was in love with Laurie, but her aunt made it clear that she needed to marry a wealthy man to save her family from misery. Meg had already married a poor teacher and struggled to make ends meet, while Jo was still establishing herself as a writer. Amidst all this, Laurie dropped the bombshell that he liked Amy and didn’t want her to marry Fred Vaughn. A few days later, Fred proposed to Amy and she rejected him.
Back at home, Beth became feverish. During her last few days with Jo, she urged Jo to continue writing since Professor Bhaer’s harsh comments had caused Jo to quit writing. Aunt March fell ill and Amy returned from Europe. Amy and Laurie finally confessed their love for each other and got married. Meanwhile, Jo found new motivation for writing but also regretted turning down Laurie’s proposal earlier. Unaware of the current circumstances, she left a letter for Teddy (whom she used to call Laurie affectionately) asking him to get back together with her.
Jo discovered Amy and Laurie’s relationship when they arrived home together. She concealed her disappointment and concealed the letter. Professor Bhaer visited Jo before beginning his new life in the west. During their meeting, it became clear to everyone that Jo and Friedrich were deeply in love with each other, but unaware of it themselves. As he departed for the train, everyone urged Jo to stop him and confess her feelings.
The novel written by Jo about the lives of the March sisters was accepted by Mr. Dashwood. He insisted on ending it with a marriage or union, so Jo proposed to Friedrich at the station and they got together. Aunt March left her palace-like house to Jo, who opened a school for young children there. Hoping for success with her novel, she decided to own its copyright. Finally, Jo watched her creation come to life in physical form as “Little Women”, a book.
My Thoughts on the movie Little Women
The movie is wholesome. It made me laugh, cry, and feel alive and content. Saoirse did a great job as Jo. The only thing I can’t figure out is how to correctly pronounce the name of the Irish actor – luckily this is just a blog, not a podcast! I’m torn between Christian Bale and Timothée Chalamet for who played Laurie better. While I can’t choose the best Laurie, given the cast of the 2019 film, Chalamet was an excellent choice. His chemistry with both Jo and Amy was a gift to the audience.
Amy March, played by Florence Pugh, was definitely my favorite version of Amy. She portrayed all the different moments in Amy’s life perfectly – from the little girl standing in front of Laurie’s house crying with swollen hands to the more mature Amy who refused to be second to Jo in everything and believed that “marriage is an economic proposition for women.” Finally, she helped Jo realize her love for Friedrich.
Emma Watson portrays Meg in the movie and I was thrilled to see her in the trailer. I’ve been a fan of hers since ‘Harry Potter’. Although Meg doesn’t have many standout moments in the story, the ones she does have are impactful. For example, when Meg wanted to enjoy a normal day at a ball – dancing and drinking – but felt embarrassed when Laurie didn’t approve of her changed persona at the party. Another moment is when Meg expressed her commitment to marry John instead of pursuing her passion for acting. Additionally, highlights of Meg’s kindness and compassion include dealing with financial struggles after marrying John without becoming resentful towards him.
Beth was the most mature of the four girls. Her death shocked me, but it served as a turning point for Jo’s writing. Meryl Streep played Aunt March, a savage old lady I couldn’t handle in real life. Laurie underwent major transformations: from hopeless lover to careless and spoiled brat to responsible adult. Falling in love with two sisters from the same family should only happen in movies or stories, not real life!
The movie’s storyline constantly jumps between past and present, which was a little confusing. However, that is my only complaint.
Fun fact about Little Women: The writer Louisa Alcott of the original novel, who wrote herself as Jo, wanted the story finishing with Jo remaining single and unmarried. However to get the novel published she had to add the extra chapter, “under the umbrella” -a story line for Jo getting together with Friedrich. In contrast to the story ending- Alcott remained single in real life.
As a reader or movie audience, do you think Friedrich and Jo’s reunion was important for the ending? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂
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