LITTLE WOMEN – Review by Susan Granger

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As a child, “Little Women” was read aloud to me, and I loved Louisa Mae Alcott’s classic about the four indomitable March sisters living in genteel poverty in Massachusetts while their father serves as a chaplain in the Civil War. And I cherished my Madame Alexander “Little Women” dolls.

Given a contemporary setting, Alcott’s astute observation of female identity in the late 1860s loses its context and authenticity, as the girls Skype-chat with their Army medic dad (Bart Johnson) in Afghanistan.

Aspiring novelist Jo March (Sarah Davenport) tells the story, using inconsistent flashbacks, relating to her sisters – domestic Meg (Melanie Stone), angelic Beth (Allie Jennings) and artistic Amy (Elise Jones/Taylor Murphy) – and their supportive mother, Marmee (Lea Thompson).

As delineated by screenwriters Kristi Shimeck and co-writer/director Clare Niederpruem, Jo is an insufferably selfish, egotistical prig who barely appreciates the encouragement of a Columbia University literary professor (Ian Bohen).

The March neighbors – orphaned Laurie (Lucas Grabeel), his tutor (Stuart Edge) and wealthy Mr. Lawrence (Michael Flynn) – seem so superficial that they barely register, nor does feisty Aunt March (Barta Heiner).

Counting television, there have been more than 12 prior screen adaptations – but none worse than this.

The first “Little Women” play opened in New York in 1912, followed by two silent films (1917 & 1918). There were 48 American radio dramatizations between 1935/1950. And in 1987, there was a 48-episode Japanese anime.

George Cukor’s 1933 version had Katharine Hepburn as rebellious Jo, yet Mervyn Le Roy’s 1949 movie was perhaps the most memorable, featuring June Allyson as Jo, Janet Leigh as Meg, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy, and Margaret O’Brien as Beth. In 1994, Gillian Armstrong cast Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst with Susan Sarandon as Marmee.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, this “Little Women” is an artificial, stiltedly foolish 4, leaving audiences anticipating Greta Gerwig’s upcoming version with Saoise Ronan as her leading lady.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.