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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs at 7:20 a.m., during the Noon News and in The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review--"Little Women"


Mark Harrington has this week’s Friday Film Review.    His message is that yet another film version of a beloved literary classic—in this case, “Little Women”—can still resonate with a new audience

This week’s film isLittle Women”, starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlan.   While of course based upon Louisa May Alcott’s classic, semi-autobiographical story about her own struggles as an author and growing up with her sisters,  Little Women”  is about more than the voices given to four girls on those book pages.  The film, under the direction of Greta Gerwig, depicts why there aren’t more girls’ voices from that era and illustrates the economic and pragmatic forces which Jo must reconcile as she balances the need to compromise for commercial viability and her family’s survival.  Saoirse Ronan is simply a force as Jo March, bringing much more depth to the role than Winona Ryder in 1994 and more vulnerability than Katherine Hepburn in 1933.   Her performance mirrors the author’s strident fortitude balanced with radiant love of her craft and siblings.  Prior adaptations perhaps over-focused on the girlish playfulness and melodrama of the young sisters which over-shadowed the potential depth of each role.  While staying true to the source material, Gerwig takes a chance casting much older actresses which allows for stronger dialogue and screen presence of all the sisters.  Minor changes include an additional speech by Amy on marriage, and the basis of the professor’s visit to the March’s house at the end of the story produce more focus on Jo’s love of writing and the unfortunate inequities still all too relevant today.  The director also utilizes flashbacks to weave through the story; a risk which feels unnecessary early in the film but is increasingly utilized with dramatic flair to heighten interwoven plot developments.   The superb cast includes Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts and Chris Cooper, each enriching their supporting roles in a manner which again improves the substance of each and every scene beyond the whimsical follies or struggles of the sisters. 

So, on my ski trail rating system, “Little Women” earns my highest BLACK DIAMOND ski trail rating.   Naysayers may prematurely give you the eye roll at the thought of yet another adaptation of the beloved 2-part novel from 150 years ago.  While certainly the big studios are guilty of mining source material over and over again, don’t confuse the re-telling of classic stories with lack of imagination.  Think of a return to a playhouse or symphony to rehear a line or a piece of music that stirs your imagination.  The creative reinterpretation of a classic will and should continue to inspire and resonate with new generations.   I’m pleased to enthusiastically report that “Little Women” meets this standard.  So whether your family has a tweener who just has to see Emma Watson’s latest role, a college student volunteering on Utah’s overdue ERA effort, or a bookworm who enjoys a good story, each will enjoy the latest retelling of these tales of perseverance, responsibility and independence.

“Little Women”  is rated PG for thematic elements, brief smoking and lightweight drinking.  

This is Mark Harrington for KPCW’s Friday Film Review.

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