I didn’t sleep well last night and as a result am as dumb as a box of rocks today. My husband came home with a “temporary” flip phone to replace the flip phone I lost (I think it’s really Under Something), and I told him I had to keep my phone number because I’m incapable of remembering any new numbers, even when I get plenty of sleep. It’ll take several hours to two business days for them to arrange for the new number.* I also have to think carefully before saying or writing my new address. I scramble the numbers. Anyway, this may turn out to be a disjointed post, but it won’t be the first.
David and I saw the latest adaptation of Little Women two weeks ago. I’d read glowing reviews but had also heard some viewers are conflicted, haven’t decided what to think.
I loved it. Absolutely loved it.
I’m embarrassed, sort of, to admit I’ve never read the book. I’ve skimmed it. But, as high school freshmen say, I saw the movie—the one made in the ’90s, and I loved it, too. I’ve also seen the version in which Katherine Hepburn played Jo. And the series aired on PBS a couple of years ago.
I’ve read three or four of Alcott’s other novels. In the sixth grade, I read Alcott’s Eight Cousins–and recently found the book report I did on it–and its sequel, Rose in Bloom. The latter was very affecting; I cried when that poor young man died in an alcohol-induced accident, but that’s what happens to young men who’ve been spoilt by their mothers and as a result are wild and even their Cousin Rose can’t reform them. Rose then fell in love with her medical doctor Cousin Mac, whom she’d always thought of as “the worm”; that’s what happens to women in novels of that period. I think Mac was a doctor. Or a medical student. He was Serious and Responsible. So was Rose.
At the end of Little Women, Alcott marries Jo to a teacher and scholar, as the director does at the end of the movie—hurrah for faithful adaptations—but the movie makes clear that Jo did so reluctantly. The director allows viewers to infer that Alcott was just as reluctant. But she wanted the book to sell, and the public wouldn’t have accepted a spinster who goes to New York to publish or perish.
A documentary that aired a few years ago on PBS includes the reading of a letter Alcott wrote refusing a proposal of marriage. It was hilarious. I’m glad I wasn’t the would-be groom who received it.
The movie’s one flaw is that the story is not told in chronological order. I think the format works perfectly. But the movie jumps back and forth in time without adequate transition from scene to scene. Viewers unfamiliar with the story might have trouble following along.
I also have a concern about the script, which applies to all the LW feature films I’ve seen—the characterization of Marmee. In this movie and the one made in the ’90s, she’s depicted as a cheerful, youthful feminist, neatly and attractively dressed, rather perky. In the PBS series, she looks older, as if she’s raising four daughters on a tight budget, with a husband away at war, and a seriously ill daughter, and mid-19th century housework that affords no time for idleness. She’s happy, but not perky, and she often looks tired. “Housekeeping,” wrote Louisa May Alcott, “ain’t no joke.” She knew. At one point, while her impractical philosopher father discussed and wrote about ideas, his wife and daughter worked as domestics.
When David and I got to the ticket window, we were told there were only three seats available, first row. We took the two on the far aisle. I hadn’t sat on the front row since I saw Toby Tyler when I was nine. Fortunately, the seats reclined, so I didn’t get a crick in my neck from looking up at an 88-degree angle. There were four people, including David and me, on the front row, the other two on the opposite aisle. At least half of the reserved seats were empty.
David commented afterward that there weren’t many young(er) people in the audience. No, the majority had gray hair, or at least visible wrinkles. Post-Boomers don’t know, or want to know, I guess, about Little Women. It’s all Game of Thrones, or whatever. Since retiring and losing the school’s subscription to Booklist, I don’t know anything about recent publications. My latest read was written in 1908. It was delightful. More about that later.
The other movie—there was a trailer—was a new Dr. Doolittle. It’s a 2020 adaptation. I think Robert Downey, Jr. is as cute as a bug, but I’ll skip this one. There’s so much noise (chaos) I couldn’t hear the animals talk, except for one little bear, or something, lying on his back and crying, “I’m too pitiful to die.” I think that was what he said. He was on board a ship in a terrible storm on the open sea.
I once cried something like that when I was on board a cruise ship in choppy waters. Nine other relatives and me, celebrating Thanksgiving in style. First night out, a norther hit. The next morning, when I phoned for someone to come attend to the carpet, the man in housekeeping, or whatever they call it, said, “You bomited in your room?” Yes, I bomited in my room. Which was better than the rest of the revelers, who were bomiting in the halls. That afternoon, they had to give me an injection of phenergan and pills to take every three hours, after which, because I was blissfully unconscious, I stopped wailing to my travel-agent cousin/roommate, who that morning had brought me a Sprite and abandoned me to my fate, “I’m going home. When we find land, you get me a plane ticket or I’ll walk home.”** The next day, we walked to the market in Cozumel and I bought some earrings.
Well, sorry for the disgusting story, but when I saw that poor little bear, that’s what I thought about. He might have just been afraid, but I suspect he was plain old seasick.***
*It might be a burner phone, which will come handy for research when I put one in a mystery, or if I myself decide to do something untoward.
**Her leaving was heartless but for the best. An optimist, she kept saying I would be fine tomorrow and I was not going home. Mal de mer is misery enough. Victims do not need the added affliction of cheerful healthy people.
***Those patches work. The next cruise, I went prepared.