BY SIDNEY BOKER ’21
“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott is being adapted into a new film, set to be released in 2019. According to the New Yorker, Alcott wrote the book in 1868 after publisher Thomas Niles prompted her to write a “girls’ story.” Before “Little Women,” Alcott published thriller stories in different weekly papers under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard to help her financially-strapped family. The Alcott family consisted of Bronson, Alcott’s transcendentalist and jobless father, her mother Abba and her three sisters, who served as Alcott’s inspiration for the March sisters in “Little Women.”
“Little Women” tells the story of the poor March sisters as they come of age in 19th-century Massachusetts. Margrit Rindlisbacher ’21 said, “Alcott’s tale actually makes me feel closer to my own grandparents and hometown, which is also where Louisa May Alcott lived, over the years of reading and rereading [Little Women].” The March girls’ father is away from home fighting in the Civil War, but their mother, Marmie, is a loving presence in their lives. The eldest sister, Meg, 16 at the start of the book, domestic and maternal while Jo, age 15, is a bookish tomboy with a temper. The third sister, Beth, is a gentle and shy 13-year-old at the beginning of the story, and the youngest, Amy, though a little spoiled and vain, is artistic and well-loved. “Little Women” chronicles the ups and downs of the sisters’ lives from illnesses to romances as they mature into young women.
Alcott’s story was an instant success when it was published in 1868, and has continued to be so widely popular that it has “never been out of print.” The story’s success and popularity has spurred so many adaptations over the years that PBS compiled a “mostly” definitive list of them, including silent films, films with sound and color, TV shows, a Broadway play, an opera and even two Japanese anime series. “Little Women” was brought to the big screen again this September, and has yet another movie adaptation coming up in 2019. The 2018 adaptation of “Little Women” is a modern retelling of Alcott’s story. It was produced by Kristi Shimek, Maclain Nelson, Stephen Shimeck and David M. Wulf, and starred Sarah Davenport, Lucas Grabeel, Allie Jennings, Lea Thompson and Ian Bohen.
According to a Los Angeles Times interview with Robin Swicord, one of the new film’s producers and the writer of the 1994 film version of “Little Women,” the 2019 movie will be directed by “Lady Bird” director Greta Gerwig, and will star Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet and Florence Pugh. Swicord also told the LA Times that “Gerwig’s screenplay focuses more on the sisters’ young adult lives after they leave the family home. It’s really taking a look at what it is for a young woman to enter the adult world.” He said the “screenplay jumps back and forth in time, focusing more on themes than narrative.” Swicord emphasized that “Greta has a wonderfully associative, well-furnished mind. Her take on the novel more than convinced us that we could bring something new to the screen.”
Lila Oren-Dahan ’20 has mixed feelings about the adaptation. “Even though I’m really apprehensive and I’m worried they won’t do it justice, I am definitely excited for the movie,” said Oren-Dahan. “More importantly, I’m excited that the movie will introduce a lot of people to the original Alcott story.”
Some people have more doubts about the new movie. “I have grown up with the original film and while it doesn’t have everything that the book has, it really captures this special story,” said Verity O’Connell ‘20. “I think the new movie is too focused on having famous stars instead of actually caring about the message of the story.”
“The story of rebuilding in the midst of and after a tragedy is always so important and relevant,” continued Oren-Dahan. “I think a lot of people can take a lot out of the story, and I’m looking forward to the movie introducing these elements to more young children.”