Ahhhh..... so here we are at long last.
I grew up with the classic 1949 version, but, as they’re different lengths etc. and I like them for different reasons, I won’t be comparing the two. Also note: I have my own DVD copy but not the means of getting screenshots at the moment so relying on the internet. :P
First off, as is to be expected with any adaptation, this mini-series rendition combines and condenses some plot points. The costumes are all pretty well done; quite basic, and I think a few modern fabric choices here and there, but all in all seemingly pretty authentic. The musical score is fun, sprightly, whimsical, and sometimes reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables (though of course it actually and very obviously predates AoGG, ha!).
I’ve come to realize that, as a story, Little Women isn’t one of my top five, or even ten, favorite stories of all time, or that I wholeheartedly agree with all of it. For one thing and especially, there're the parenting methods. (For instance, if discipline had been properly meted out at as a regular thing round the house for lack of self-control for everyone, Jo’s book wouldn’t have been lost in the first place and Amy would’ve got her just deserts when it did; as well as the overarchingly somewhat hyper-matriarchal tone & some of Alcott’s philosophy etc.... So phooey about all that.) But you do sometimes have to have imperfect authority figures to have story conflict. So there is that.
All that being said, it still just IS, and definitely looms large among its classic friends on my shelf. So let us have no misapprehensions on that score. ;)
But back to the task at hand.
The sisters all seem very realistic, which I love. And with Dorothy McGuire as Marmee and Greer Garson as Aunt March, it provides a really interesting cross section of multiple film generations and different acting styles -- from the silver screen to Technicolor classics to tv shows -- so that’s pretty fascinating.
As for specifics...
Meg’s pretty okay. Not quite as I picture her, but she still does a fine job and melds with everyone else. I don’t like John Brooke terribly much, which is too bad, as generally he’s one of my favorite characters, but there tis. :/
Beth is very sweet. She has a few little imperfections, she’s not quite angelic, and I like how that adds a nice bit of depth and development to her character. Plus I like how they made her very age appropriate.
Now, try hard as I can -- and being thoroughly, rigorously open-minded – I’m still disappointed with almost every rendition of Amy I've seen. Not one’s quite right. (She’s supposed to be a highly intelligent, thoroughly well bred young lady with grace and poise. Elegant and stately, peoples!! Not spunky and bouncy. :/) Still, somehow here I like her quite all right by the end, maybe because she really makes Laurie so very happy. (Speaking of which, I think Laurie is actually done rather well. His speaking style takes a little to get used to, but by the end... yes, quite well done.)
Because of the length, it also follows Meg and Amy more than usual -- rather a lovely lot in Europe, even including Frank's whole proposal etc, so that's nice.
Susan Dey as Jo: passionate, sympathetic, expressive and intuitive -- she OWNS the part. She really does an excellent, excellent job, giving a nice, wonderfully fresh take on the role. I think what makes Jo work as a heroine for me is her brutal honesty. And that comes through here quite well and brilliantly. Yes, I like this Jo very well indeed.
And the current star of the piece, Captain Kirk as Professor Bhaer. William Shatner plays a very direct, hard-hitting, slightly twinkly eyed professor.
There’re never enough scenes with the Professor and Jo (am I right?), but still quite a good few in here.
Their chemistry clicks and, come the ending, all is very sweet. I specifically love the little highlights of how he comes into her life just when she’s ready to listen, then knows how perfectly to speak to her mind and emotions, wooing, taming, and helping her truly blossom into a strong woman capable of great things.
All in all, thinking over the whole film, somehow it all works and everything comes alive. There are some cute, also burning and achingly sad, sweet, and even very romantic moments. By the end you’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions. For instance, the scene where Amy and Laurie arrive back always leaves me near bawling. In other versions it always seems bittersweet (as in thinking of all the happy bygone times), but here it’s hopeful… and ultimately forward looking… and so SO sweet. It just catches you at the throat every time. *sobbing happily*
If you're looking for a sparkly, thrillingly epic, larger-than-life rendition, this isn't quite it. But it's also not that kinda story, and if you go into it with an open mind -- or with ulterior motivating factors (like seeing Captain Kirk as Professor Bhaer) -- then you might be very delightfully surprised. ;) Altogether, by and large, by the time the credits roll round, I end up loving it.
If you’ve seen it and love it too, be sure and let me know in the comments! :)
(This was written as a contribution for the Beyond Star Trek blogathon. Thank you for hosting Hamlette!)
P.S. Also, if you’re here via the Star Trek event, you might be interested in my older review for the 1975 North & South starring Patrick Stewart as Thornton. You can check it out here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks again for reading and see y’all later!