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REVIEW: The newest ‘Little Women’ is an impressive modern-day adaptation

September 28th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: The newest ‘Little Women’ is an impressive modern-day adaptation

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Jo is a driven, 20-something woman who wants to be a novelist – and preferably, a famous one.

“I want to write something that won’t be forgotten after I die,” she says.   

Yes, she wants to get married, too, but that can wait. She even made a pact with her three sisters not to get married until she reaches the age of 30. They took an oath, too.

But that pledge was made when they were children. Now they’re adults, and her younger sister, Meg, is engaged.

As a career-driven women, Jo isn’t about to let her little sister make what she views as a mistake.

“We don’t live in the 1700s,” Jo tells her. “We don’t have to rely on men anymore.”

Meg, though, isn’t backing down.

“I know you don’t understand why I want to be a mom and get married and have kids, but it’s what I want,” Meg says. “… All I’m asking is that you be by my side for one day.”

A modern-retelling of Little Women (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, 150 years after Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel was first released. It follows the lives of four sisters – Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy – along with their mom, Marmee, and the famous suitors Laurie and Freddy.

It stars Lea Thompson (Caroline in the City, Switched at Birth) as the mom, and several other actresses (such as Sarah Davenport as Jo) you may not have heard of but likely will be impressed with after watching it.

Clare Niederpruem, a fan of the novel and of the 1994 movie, directed it.

Although updated and set in modern times, the film remains true to the novel’s storyline. Laurie marries the sister that you remember him marrying in the book, Freddy does the same, and so forth. The movie shows Jo as a 16-year-old, as a 29-year-old, and several ages in between.    

It’s an enjoyable and impressive remake that had me laughing and even crying a bit. It’s also mostly family-friendly.  

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

None.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. One sister makes out with a boy at a dance, but when things get out of hand she pushes him away. We hear girls talk about a “full chest” and about being “hot.” A sister is pressured to wear a prom dress that is more revealing than she wanted. (It shows her belly.)  

Coarse Language

None.

Other Positive Elements

Minus one or two exceptions, the male characters in the movie are true gentlemen. The sisters make mistakes but learn from them.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

A sister goes to a party and drinks. She is pressured to drink heavily – with people chanting “drink, drink, drink” – but refuses.

Life Lessons

Because Little Women covers 13 years in the lives of four sisters, it is filled with positive messages and lessons. We learn about forgiveness and reconciliation, tragedy and death, supporting one another despite differences, and learning to cope with disappointment. The movie also has good messages about love, waiting until marriage for sex, and peer pressure. The career-vs.-family debate is tackled, too.

Worldview

The Bible tells us that life is like “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). That’s referencing not only how “time flies” but also how short our lives are compared to eternity.  

Little Women reminds us of the brevity of life as we watch the sisters grow and mature – from childhood to adulthood – in a mere 90 minutes. Watching Little Women is a little like walking through a cemetery. It makes us appreciate life’s blessings even more. It also should drive us to live life with true purpose and with eternity always in focus.  

What Works

The acting, which is impressive with a cast of mostly unknown actresses. The script is solid, too. Finally, I’m thankful the filmmakers didn’t ruin a classic, as often takes place. The women aren’t sexualized and objectified, as is the case with many Hollywood films.

What Doesn’t

It can’t be easy to find an actress who can look 16 and 29 in the same movie. For the most part, it works in this movie, but sometimes it stretches believability.

Discussion Questions

1. Name three things you learned about growing up while watching Little Women.

2. What did Jo learn about tragedy and about disappointment? What should we learn?

3. Was Jo right to follow her dreams and delay marriage?

4. What can we learn about encouraging and supporting one another from the movie?

5. How should we react when life doesn’t turn out the way we expected?

Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and teen drinking.