Droplets of Alcott

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June. It’s June. A few more months than it’s the glut of holidays. Thank the blessed unicorns of the third-party American voters, I never ever take my various decorations down. Score!

Thanks. I’ll be here a while. Try the chicken.

And on to a movie I’ve been wanting to see since it hit theatres in 2019. So about twenty thousand years ago, or so it seems.

Ahem.

I did not go see it. I think I went to Rise of Skywalker instead, because hey, sat through the other two. And I actually liked Last Jedi. Do I hear snarls? Is that snarls?

Little Women! Feminist remake! Unpronounceable Irish-named actress as Jo! Timothy Challawallabingbang as Laurie, the alleged six foot plus Italian stud-hunk.

Um, no. No.

Otherwise the casting was pretty spot on.

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Beth, Jo, Meg, Amy and Laurie Laurence

I LOVED Laura Dern as Marmee. This is the first time I found her to be human and lovable, instead of the stalwart lecturer of the four sisters, the saintly mother-goddess archetypal figure so often depicted in nearly every Little Women adaptation. This Marmee is far more human than superwoman. And it’s fantastic. Adds so many layers right there. The way she wipes tears from her cheeks, takes a moment to put on her Happy Marmee Face before facing her daughters…damn. We get a glimpse into just how hard her life is trying to raise her kids and make ends meet and live up to her own ideals is. That little sigh, that little moment of utter weariness. Show don’t tell moment, y’all.

Emma Watson as Meg. Eh. There’s really never been much there to play with. But Watson gives it her best. We also get glimpses of Meg’s talent as an actress, and the creative lives of these lively sisters reminds how limited and few their choices were and how limited a lot of the time women still have it. Even now. Yeah, I went there. Meg marries a good man, settles in for motherhood and caregiving, and oh…we get to see her dissatisfaction, her restlessness, her unhappiness even. This was covered a tiny bit in the actual novel, but Alcott resolved it too neatly and Meg gets to play St. Housewife the rest of her time in the Alcott universe. Through Little Men and Jo’s Boys. Don’t believe me? You have some reading to do, kiddos.

Beth is Beth. I did like this actress in the thankless role of Dying Young role. I am so glad it was not that drawn out or even given all that much screen time. You can see the potential of Beth and how she supports her sisters and lives life through her wild, free, strong protector-friend Jo.

And yes, we also get to blame German immigrants for bringing disease to the March family. That was in the novel, it’s been in all the movies, as it’s an integral part of the story as set down by Alcott.

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Amy and Aunt March discuss the realities of life.

Amy had to be my fave here. Florence Pugh gives this most unlikable sister actual layers, practicality, a lot of heart and that careless something we can call charm. Amy’s future relationship with Theodore Laurence, the hunkalicious boy next door, gets a lot of timne spent on it. In the movie, that is. Not the novel. The relationship does seem one-sided. however. Amy loves him, he tolerates her for the moment…but they do know each other, grew up a bit together and don’t ever really face any real challenges. At least, none on screen. Other than Amy’s other candidate for Rich Husband, Fred Vaughn. But he’s not given much more to be than Obstacle. We barely even see his face, let alone how all of this affects him. Amy tosses him aside like a used handkerchief. But we’re supposed to believe she had chosen love over being mercenary. Or has she???

Ah, Jo. One of my favorite literary characters. I identify with someone who wants to write. Yes, I do. I identify with someone who has such trouble fitting in and being what’s expected of a girl. Here the Jo character doesn’t really deviate from all the other Jo’s, not really. I did like how we got to see the business end of writing. The getting your stuff into print work Jo had to go through. She was always working out story ideas and composing her tales. We got to see that. We got to watch her work on a novel. It wasn’t she sat down at a desk, poof, the next scene, the novel is finished and ready to go to print. Nope!

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Jo and Teddy.

I adore that this film tackled, head on, the Jo mantra that she would never marry and yet the novel and movie ends with the requisite happy ending. Because it’s what people want and expect, not because it’s what the characters want or need to happen. Gut punch. That’s a gut punch. That a story involving women or a ‘woman’s tale’ has to end in either marriage or death.

Gut. Punch.

I had no quibbles, much, with Professor Bhaer. Except…HE’S GERMAN, POOR AND NOT HANDSOME AND OLDER THAN JO BY A LOT OF YEARS. Ugh. In the film, he was young, French and should maybe have swapped with the Timothy Challawalla kid. I felt a real hollowness over this alleged romance between him and fierce independent Jo. It seemed to arise out of nowhere and suddenly, she was madly in love so they could have AN ACTUAL DASH TO THE RAILWAY STATION scene. I. Just. Ugh.

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Louis Garrel as Professor Bhaer. Um…? Yeah.

Suddenly we’re in romantic movies land and it just rang so goddamn false. I DIDN’T BELIEVE THE CHARACTER SET UP OVER THE COURSE OF THIS LONG ASS MOVIE would suddenly turn into Meg Ryan galloping after Tom Hanks or some other screen couple we wait two hours for to do just that. Not Jo March, no sir! Christopher Columbus! But…then again, we are set up that the publisher guy told Jo her stories involving women had to have it end with a wedding or the death of the woman. She could not go off to a life of happy spinsterhood, no no no!

Now, the neighbor guy who was in love with Jo from their first meeting to marrying some other sister cause…mm.

I, too, always asked why Jo didn’t marry Laurie. Or Teddy, as she called him. Teddy, in the book, made the other boys call him Laurie, after beating the shit out of them. As they were teasing him anyway. He’s also presented as some sort of ‘other’ due to his hot Italian blood. Alcott’s wording. As if those of Italian descent are fire-blooded hotheads with almost no morality. Oh, you thought stereotyping of other cultures was a new thing??? Bwha ha ha ha.

We get to see a very torn up Jo, lonely and confused, reconsider her choices here. Openly saying she’d give another answer to that proposal. It was hinted at in the book but here we get to hear it.

Aunt March is played, with lots of fun and vinegar, by Meryl Streep. Teddy’s grandpa is played by Chris Cooper, one of my fave actors. Both are a hooty hoot.

I was taken out of this otherwise stellar film every time Timothy Wallawallbang bang popped into frame. He looks twelve years old to me. He’s heroin skinny with the frame of a stork. I just. I just can’t overcome my suspension of disbelief barriers to swallow him as the over six foot tall, built like a brick shithouse, Theodore Laurence. Who is also supposed to be astoundingly handsome. Rather the perfect foil to Jo March, who is often described as her hair being her only real beauty.

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Christian Bale and Timothy Chalamet compare/contrast time

Teddy and Jo. They share actual bonds. Friendship, confidences, trust, companionship. They spark each other. We are led to believe this is bad; that actual passion, conflict and being hot-tempered are the worst things, like, ever.

Alcott makes it clear that because the two often fight, this is a bad thing. We are led, by Alcott, to think that Meg and John Brook have the idyllic- more or less—married relationship. All cooing doves, no screeching falcons. That a marriage should be polite barely affectionate people…or a marriage of that time. Okay. Okay!

This film breaks the linear fashion of the story up. That’s good. I didn’t expect it to work, I expected to be highly annoyed. I was not. It worked. It often paralleled a moment from the past with one in the here and now to one of the sisters. We got to watch a jigsaw puzzle being filled in rather than being spoonfed a homespun tale of sisters finding their way through life.

I was jarred a bit by all the legs and underwear shown. That’s fine for modern audiences but…not at that time. Even at home in private with no neighbor watching. Marmee had her skirt hiked up, baking, as Meg was brought home by Jo and Laurie from a winter dance due to a twisted ankle. Marmee, no. No.

And to end this rambling screed on Amy. I adored her speech about how marriage was an economic everything to women, not so much for men. As men held all the power, the land, even the children were theirs. Men held the pursestrings mostly and women were very limited as to what careers they could pursue without having to endure society calling them all sorts of names and shunning them accordingly. Amy declares she can’t be a great artist, so she will be an ornament to society. Laurie is horrified by this but she icily reminds him that she really has very few choices here beyond marry a wealthy man or live in poverty with a poor man or…work at some job she hates for very little money to retain her respectability. Aunt March, in an earlier scene, lays it out quite baldly. She never had to marry because she had oodles of money. She urges the sisters to marry wealthy men because that’s one of the only ways a woman can move up in the world. It’s also a means to take care of the entire family. As the Marches have no sons…well.

And of course…if you know this story at all…who does Amy end up marrying?

I could ramble on for days and days over the nuances of Little Women, feminism, the various cinematic takes on Alcott’s most famous work and the absolute puzzlement that the casting folks can’t cast a decent Theodore Laurence already. Though…Christian Bale was okay, in the Winona Ryder version. Which is such a beautiful film, if you have not seen it.

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Laura Dern as Marmee.

Over and out, fellow babies. I need to croon over my growing squash plants and squee over the opening of the bachelor buttons.

Oh! Jaws, the kitty, jumped off the fence and must have come down on it funky. I was freaking out thinking she’d broken her leg but after some rest and TLC, she was fine. Today I caught her tormenting a baby mouse, which is now resting and recovering a bit before I find a place to release it or…let it live with me a few days. I’m sorry, the little frightened squeaking! I put it in a giant glass container and will give it some water and…Yes, it’s ‘just a mouse’. But I like to think the March sisters would approve.

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