Little Women(2019) is the movie I wanted to watch from the moment I knew it existed. Some of the main characters of the movie are played by Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Emma Watson, Merryl Streep etc. There used to be an animated series called ‘Little Women’ when I was in 3rd or 4th standard… I was so fascinated by the series but I used to have a tuition at the same time. Needless to say, I could barely get a chance watch the anime.
Much later in my life I came to know about the original novel, also of the same name written by Louisa May Alcott- a story about the life of 4 sisters Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth. So the movie reminded me of my unfinished business from childhood!!
Josephine March/Jo, the eldest daughter in the March family was an aspiring writer. Teacher by profession and writer by passion Jo went to visit an editor, Mr. Dashwood to publish one of her stories. Another sister, Amy was living in Paris with her aunt, for attending to her needs and taking art classes on the side. In a part Amy met her childhood friend and neighbor Laurie. Amy was taken aback when she found the drunken mess of a person that Laurie had become.
In their brief encounter, Laurie mocked Amy for pursuing a rich guy named Fred Vaughn for marriage and Amy expressed her disapproval of Laurie wasting his grandfather’s riches and not making anything valuable of himself.
During her stay in NYC, Jo met a German professor named Friedrich Bhaer. As a trusted friend, Jo showed some of her work to Friedrich. However his direct and critical feedback made Jo furious, so she snatched all her writings and stomped out of his sight… On the same day, Jo received a letter from home informing about her sister Beth’s sickness. Jo left for home immediately without telling anything to Friedrich.
We are taken back to these girls’ childhood memories- how Jo met Laurie in a party, both of them trying to avoid to social interactions. Jo and Laurie vibed pretty effortlessly and became good friends. The mother of the girls, affectionately called Marmee, was a kind woman. Despite their own financial struggle, she appealed to her daughters to give away their entire breakfast to a very poor neighbor (Mrs. Hummel and her starving children). After getting back home, the girls were pleasantly surprised to find a table full of delectable meals sent by their affluent neighbor Mr. Laurence (Laurie’s grandfather). The father was fighting in American Civil War. Joe used to read to aunt March in the hope that one day she would be pleased with her and ask her to come to Europe…
Laurie’s tutor, John started taking interest in Meg. One night when Jo and Meg went out with Laurie and John to a local theater, Amy got really upset with Jo for not including her. Revengeful Amy burnt Jo’s writings. The 2 sisters got into a huge fight after Jo came back home. Later, Jo went to a frozen lake with Laurie for ice-skating. Amy followed them to make amends with Jo- while Jo and Laurie were joking around, Amy fell into the water through a crack. Jo and Laurie saved Amy and the sisters reconciled with each other.
Mr. Laurence had a soft corner for the youngest girl, Beth as she reminded him of his late daughter. He requested Beth to play the piano that he owned. Eventually, he sent his piano to the March family, so that Beth could play it whenever she wished…
Jo and Laurie became best friends… Amy too, grew fond of Laurie.
Meg and John got married…. Aunt March announced her decision to take Amy to Europe instead of Jo. Laurie proposed to Jo only to get rejected and friend-zoned by Jo. Free-spirited Jo was obsessed with taking her passion for writing further- not seeing herself getting married any sooner.
While Marmee was out for some volunteer work, none of the girls wanted to check out on the poor neighbor family except for Beth. Unfortunately the family was affected by a highly contagious fever when Beth gave them a visit. Few days later, she started showing symptoms too. Beth was very sickly since then…
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. However her aunt made it very clear that she needed to get married to a rich guy to save her family from misery. Meg already married a poor teacher and was struggling to make both ends meet. Jo was still far from being an established writer. Amongst all these, Laurie dropped the ‘I like you, don’t get married to Fred Vaughn’ bomb on Amy… Few days later Fred Vaughn proposed to Amy and she rejected.
Back at home, Beth succumbed to the fever. In her last few days with Jo, she constantly urged Jo to continue writing, as Jo had quit writing after Professor Bhaer’s hard comments on her writing.
Aunt March fell ill and it was time for Amy to return from Europe. Amy and Laurie finally confessed their feelings for each other and got married. Jo, on the other hand found some new motivation for writing… She started regretting turning down Laurie’s proposal earlier. Unaware of the current circumstances she left a letter for Laurie (whom she used to call Teddy, very lovingly) to get back with him.
Jo found out about Amy and Laurie when they returned home together. She suppressed her disappointment and hid the letter. Professor Bhaer came to visit Jo, before he could start his new life in the west.
In their encounter, it became apparent to everyone how madly Jo and Friedrich were in love with each other and were unaware themselves. As he left for the train, everyone insisted Jo to make him stop and confess her love.
The novel written by Jo on the life of the March sisters got accepted by Mr. Dashwood. He insisted on making the ending with marriage/union. So for story, Jo proposes Friedrich in the station and they got together.
Aunt March left her palace-like house for Jo where she opened a school for the little children. Hopeful about the success of her novel she decided to own the copyright of her work… Finally, Jo watched her creation to come in the physical form of a book -named ‘Little Women’.
My Thoughts on the movie
The movie is absolutely wholesome- it made me laugh, it made cry and at the end it made me feel alive and contented… Saoirse has done great job as Jo. Only thing is I still can’t figure out how to correctly pronounce the name of the Irish actor correctly- luckily this is just a blog, not a podcast!
I am torn between the 2 Lauries- played by Christian Bale and Timothée Chalamet. While I can’t choose the best Laurie, given the cast of the 2019 film, Chalamet is undoubtedly an excellent choice. His chemistry with both Jo and Amy was gift to the audience.
Amy March played by Florence Pugh was my favorite version of Amy for sure. From the little Amy standing in front of Laurie’s house, crying with swollen hands to the rather matured Amy- who refuses to be second to Jo in everything or thinks ‘marriage is an economic proposition for women’ or finally helps Jo to realize her love for Friedrich- Florence portrayed all of these moments with perfection.
Emma Watson as Meg- I probably exploded internally when I saw the movie trailer. Loved her since the ‘Harry Potter’… Even though Meg has only few good moments in the story- they are still quite impactful ones. Meg wanting to have a normal day in the ball, dancing, drinking- she felt so embarrassed when Laurie didn’t approve her changed-persona in the party… Or the time Meg expressed her commitment to marry John and not pursue her passion for acting. Meg dealing with financial struggles after getting married with John, yet not turning resentful towards her husband – are highlights of Meg’s kindness and compassion.
Beth was probably the most matured of the 4 girls. Her death came as a shock to me- however it served as a major turning point for Jo as a writer.
Aunt March played by Meryl Streep was a savage old lady. I might not be able to handle her sassiness in real life.
Laurie had to go through major transformations. From the hopeless lover of Jo- to the careless and spoilt brat – to a responsible adult… it was a long journey indeed. Falling in love with 2 sisters of the same family – let that be only in movies and stories, not in real life!
The movie’s storyline constantly jumping between past and present was a little confusing to me… that’s the only complaint I have.
Fun fact: 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 feel the reunion between Friedrich and Jo was crucial for the ending? Would love to know what you guys think. 🙂