Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlen and Florence Pugh star in a scene from the movie “Little Women.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (CNS photo/Sony)
“Little Women” has been performed many times, but my favorite rendition doesn’t feature Elizabeth Taylor or Winona Ryder.
Though no critic will ever analyze it, no performance — in my mind, at least — will ever top the one my sisters and I produced on the second floor of our Rodgers Forge rowhouse when we were growing up. I had two older sisters who got to play the starring roles, while my role was to be Beth, dying feverishly and dramatically in bed.
Whenever I read or watch “Little Women,” my mind travels back to that time in my childhood when we tried again and again to bring that treasured book to life. The story never failed to capture our imagination — the tale of four girls and their mother living ordinary and yet extraordinary lives in their home in Massachusetts. They were heroic in small ways that seemed large to me. They lived in the present, hoped for the future, and loved each other deeply — even through their sisterly disagreements.
As little girls growing up together in a close-knit family, my sisters and I saw ourselves in the story, taking on the characters’ personalities, pouring ourselves into the strong female roles, and — maybe in some corner of our minds — imagining what story we might write about our family one day.
Watching the new “Little Women” on the big screen this week offered a trip down memory lane. There is a rawness and an authenticity to this version that helps place you directly into the story from the beginning. The costumes and imagery are stunning. I laughed and cried far more than I expected to — and at some unexpected parts.
Sometimes when a story isn’t told in chronological order, I struggle to follow along. But it was delightful to watch as the tapestry was woven, with strings of stories coming together and strengthening the movie in a beautiful way. Not long into the movie, I realized I wasn’t watching the story as much as experiencing it alongside the main characters. There’s an authenticity to the whole experience.
If you haven’t read “Little Women,” the storyline may be a little tricky to follow. My 12-year-old niece who hasn’t read the book thought it was a little confusing at first because of where the story began, but overall she loved the film and said it was even worth sitting through what she called, “a 45-minute block of ads and previews.” Her 16-year-old sister—who has read the book—gave the movie a 10 out of 10 for great characters and relationships and for almost making her cry. Apparently, Eileen doesn’t cry during movies the way her aunt does. I should have brought a whole box of tissues.
If you’re a fan of “Little Women” or Louisa May Alcott, I believe you’ll enjoy every bit of the journey — even if you need to over-analyze the portrayals of the male characters on the ride home because — naturally — they never quite match the versions in your mind.
So, take your sister or niece or mother or daughter or friend or just go yourself. I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it more than the version we performed back when my sisters and I were little girls-becoming-women so many years ago. But I still think Louisa May Alcott would have cheered us on.