Little Women 2017 – Cast

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I do not know what possessed the BBC to send a cast and crew to Ireland to film a miniseries of classic American Civil War-era novel Little Women, but that’s precisely what they did in 2017.

The series aired in some countries around Boxing Day last year, and now it’s America’s turn.

I first watched it in January, and – as a huge fan of the 1994 movie – have thoughts about it.

Because these thoughts turned into something of an essay, I’ll be discussing the casting on one day, and the production on another.

I’ll not be talking about the earlier adaptations.

These posts will also be on my book blog. There will be spoilers.

In case you’re not familiar with the story:

Little Women is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Alcott wrote the books over several months at the request of her publisher. Following the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy—the novel details their passage from childhood to womanhood and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters.

Little Women was an immediate commercial and critical success with readers demanding to know more about the characters. Alcott quickly completed a second volume (entitled Good Wives in the United Kingdom, although this name originated from the publisher and not from Alcott). It was also successful. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single novel entitled Little Women.”

 

 

Of course, the most important casting choices for Little Women will be the sisters. Other major roles are Marmee, the girls’ mother, Laurie, the young man who moves in next door, and the elderly Aunt March. There are other roles, but those are the three people tend to care about.

Firstly: I have NO idea why people have complained about the actresses’ accents. Three of the four actresses ARE American, including Jo, so I think people are simply looking for faults where they don’t exist.

Jo is the star of the book, and the series, and here she is played by Maya Thurman-Hawke. She is Uma Thurman’s (and Ethan Hawke’s) daughter, whom she resembles – but to me she is a lankier, younger version of Lynette Wills.

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This is a very different Jo to Winona Ryder’s 1994 Oscar-nominated version. She is awkward, scruffy, and passionate. It is a great performance and even though she’s a newcomer you can see how much work she put into the role, but I’m still a Winona fan!

The problem with her casting is that she looks like the youngest of the March sisters, when two of the girls are supposed to be significantly younger than her. (Also, I nearly broke through the screen to try to do something about her unbrushed, unstyled hippie hair!)

Little Women

This leads me to Amy – the baby of the family. She is played by a twenty-year-old Kathryn Newton here, though she is meant to not have even reached her teens at the start. She fares much better as the grown version of the character.

People love to hate Amy for three reasons:

  1. She is the youngest, and therefore does some immature things at the start that people refuse to forgive her for as she matures.
  2. She is supposed to be the pretty blue-eyed blonde of the family (and people love to hate pretty blondes!) – which leads to:
  3. She marries Laurie, and everyone wanted Jo to marry him, so they won’t forgive her for it.

I have always found the hatred directed at Amy abhorrent and enormously misogynistic. Amy is my favourite March sister because she grows and changes the most, and has a wealth of interests and ambitions.

Amy March Little Women 1994 Kirsten Dunst Samantha Mathis

In the 1994 version she was played by two actresses: Kirsten Dunst as the younger version, and Samantha Mathis as the grown version. While I always found it odd how different the two were from each other, they were both so brilliant in the role I forgave it.

The problem with Newton in the role in this new adaptation? There are a few.

Little Women 2017 Kathryn Newton Amy March Sonya Heaney Screencap Skating Scene

Firstly: she is older than the actress playing Jo, and it’s obvious. She is a poised young woman to a Jo who is still mastering her teen awkwardness, and no amount of Amy skipping around the house and sitting on the floor with her legs splayed makes her seem any younger.

Secondly: this obvious maturity makes her childhood mistakes seem calculated and evil, and the writer and director lingered on them so long it painted a completely wrong picture of the character.

Thirdly: no time actually seems to pass. In 1994, we saw Mathis’ Amy had grown because she was in 1870s gowns and had 1870s hairstyles:

Samantha Mathis as Amy March in Little Women (1994)

Little Women film- Samantha Mathis as Amy March)

2017’s Amy is still in the voluminous Civil War-era skirts, with ear-hugging 1860s hair as an adult – the same fashions that were around when she was a child:

Little Women 2017 Kathryn Newton Amy March Laurie Sonya Heaney Episode 3 screencap Europe

It results in an Amy who looks too old to be a child, and too young to be an adult.

Superficially: nobody in a period drama should have dark eyebrows and bleached blonde hair.

Now… there are two more March sisters, but I need to mention Laurie.

Jonah Hauer-King actually physically resembles the book character better than 1994’s Christian Bale, but: 1994’s Laurie was Christian Bale!

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He was simply brilliant in the movie, unsurpassable.

2017 Laurie and Amy are below. I think they suit much better than Laurie and Jo.

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On the other hand, Hauer-King does an excellent job. He’s likeable, loveable, and IS a good match for Amy when he finally realises Jo is his best friend, not the love of his life. I think he did a great job.

The other two March sisters are the two people tend to overlook more.

In this version, tragic Beth has been given a whole new level of “homebody”. She has a full-on anxiety disorder in this incarnation, which is not something I have ever seen before, and I’m not sure was necessary.

Little Women 2017 Episode 1 Beth March Sonya Heaney Annes Elwy Screencap Winter

Welsh actress Annes Elwy (as in, the only sister not played by an American) does a great job with what material she has, but she is written to fade into the background at so many points. I still find her highly likeable, however.

Beth’s death in the movie was a hugely emotional scene with only Jo present; in this miniseries everyone’s crowded around and I really don’t think it had much of an impact, despite Emily Watson’s good acting…

The eldest March sister, the sensible, motherly one, was played well by Willa Fitzgerald even if she does come across as a bit of a bore! I actually think that overall this was the March sister who was the best cast. She is everything Meg should be, but the actress simply does not have enough to work with to make her as interesting as Jo or Amy.

Emily Watson’s Marmee is a much more harried, rough-around-the-edges mother than Susan Sarandon’s version in 1994. I think it suited this scruffier production of the book, and she is always a great actress, but I still prefer a warmer interpretation.

Watson also gets extra points, because Susan Sarandon – the real woman – has emerged as highly unlikeable since the 2016 US election.

Angela Lansbury (of recent “women need to take some blame for getting raped” infamy) plays Aunt March, the elderly aunt who takes Amy to Europe. She is a different aunt to the 1994 version, but she is really good in the role.

This is VERY different casting to the ’94 movie, but that is a good thing. I do prefer the movie cast overall, but there are some interesting changes in the 2017 version.

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50th Anniversary of Romeo and Juliet

Today is the 50th anniversary of the release of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet.

The movie premiered in London on the 4th of March, 1968.

On this day: the premiere of Little Women

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The 1933 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic book Little Women premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York on the 16th of November. Starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo, Frances Dee as Meg, Jean Parker as Beth, and Joan Bennett as Amy, all of the girls’ characters were played by women significantly older. Spring Byington played Marmee.

little_women_1933_posterlittle-women-1933-film

In its initial run, the film broke attendance records, and it went on to be nominated for a number of Academy Awards. Husband-and-wife scriptwriting team Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason won for their screenplay.

 

 

Pride and Prejudice Adaptations: BBC’s 1980 Production

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Garvie David Rintoul Elizabeth Bennet Mr Darcy

I think it would be accurate to say that at first, with its low production values and the I feel like I’m watching a play sense it gives off, I didn’t love the 1980 Pride and Prejudice. However, it has grown on me so much I now consider Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul to be the real Elizabeth and Darcy, and each time I watch it I find another little moment that makes me enjoy the production more.

 Pride and Prejudice 1980 Final Proposal Scene Sonya Heaney

The second proposal.

This version is often touted as the one that is closest to the book, and I think people mean in spirit rather than page by page, as there are plenty of differences. The silliest one would have to be Elizabeth running all the way to Pemberley when she finds out her sister has taken off with a man, though the scene that follows really works for me.

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Despite occasionally looking like a young woman straight out of the late 1970s, complete with shoulder-length frizzy hair, Elizabeth Garvie captures the archness and the manners of the Elizabeth Bennet of the book. She is polite but also witty, and she has the youthfulness and growth that I find sorely missing from Jennifer Ehle’s interpretation in 1995.

I can see why Darcy was confused when she rejected his first proposal, as unlike Ehle, who scowled and rolled her eyes whenever Darcy was within shouting distance, Garvie’s Elizabeth is a lovely young woman trapped in an embarrassing family with poor finances.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 David Rintoul Mr Darcy Rosings Sonya Heaney

Darcy sees Elizabeth at Rosings

David Rintoul is the only Darcy I find physically attractive (though don’t do what I did and Google recent images of him!). He is tall and intimidating and oh so aristocratic. Criticisms of him playing the role too stiff and dull are probably justified, but the more I watch him, the more I catch his subtle smiles and his meaningful looks. By the end, when he is shocked and happily surprised Elizabeth wants to marry him, he does much more with the scene than fan favourite Colin Firth ever did in the 1995 version.

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You see him change over the course of the story, and gradually see what’s going on beneath that exterior and that posh, posh voice. I’d marry him. Even if this version of his house is in desperate need of a clean! Those black stains on the exterior!

Elizabeth runs to Pemberley Pride and Prejudice 1980  Sonya Heaney

Elizabeth runs to a rather dirty Pemberley!

Together, they work perfectly for me. They didn’t toss all the social rules out the window, and when Elizabeth starts crying about Lydia’s elopement, all Darcy can do is hover, unable to touch her to comfort her.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Darcy Lydia's Elopement Pemberley Sonya Heaney

I love when period dramas can capture that total absence of physical contact and the strain it causes, and I’d love to see more of that in historical romance books.

P&P198012 Elizabeth and Jane bennet

Elizabeth and Jane

Jane and Bingley work for me in this version. Jane is pretty and smiling and has lovely manners without being insipid. The scene where she first glimpses Bingley from a window and starts waxing poetic about him after two seconds is utterly ridiculous, but I don’t have any other complaints.

Pride and prejudice 1980 Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley Episode One

Bingley is a bit of a dorky oaf, but he is also a genuinely nice man. He is the only Bingley out of the 1980, 1995 and 2005 versions who isn’t a bumbling idiot. While I don’t think he’s even remotely handsome, he’s a good person, has a physical presence, and is the only one who is a match for Darcy.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Mr and Mrs Bennet Episode One

Mr and Mrs Bennet are the closest to the characters from the book. Most adaptations make Mr Bennet too nice, and I like what was done in this version. It should never be forgotten he has made some selfish decisions that have put the ladies’ futures in jeopardy.

As for Mrs Bennet, she over-talks without being a screeching idiot (a la 1995). She remembers who she is and what social customs need to be followed – as she would have! – but still manages to overdo things. She’s the best version of this character I have seen.

P&P19806Mrs Bennet Lydia Bennet

A very old-looking Lydia!

The rest of the Bennet girls are not so good. Though I believe the actresses were close to the ages of the characters they were playing, both Lydia and Kitty look middle-aged and I can never tell them apart.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 The Bennet Sisters Episode One

Mary Bennet Pride and Prejudice 1980

God only knows what they were thinking giving Mary that hairstyle. She looks out of place in the family. Could they have made the nerdy one look any more clichéd? It’s a little offensive.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Lrida and Mr Wickham

Mr Wickham is too unattractive for his role, sorry!

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Mr Collins Charlotte Lucas

I loved what they did with Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins. This is the ONLY Mr Collins who matches the description from the book. And he’s a dope without being a slimy paedophile. Charlotte is not ugly, but plain, and she is a lovely friend for Elizabeth.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Chalrotte Elizabeth Episode Three

There’s a totally made-up scene where the two girls laugh over a floatation hat, and though it’s a huge departure from the book, it gets a laugh out of me every time.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Episode One Mr Darcy Caroline Bingley Sonya Heaney

I believe the actress playing Miss Bingley is a direct descendant of the aristocracy, and I think she was perfect in her role.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth bennet Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Just as I think this Lady Catherine de Bourgh is perfect in hers.

Pride and Prejudice 1980 David Rintoul Mr Darcy Rosings Park Sonya HeaneyPride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Garvie Elizabeth Bennet Rosings Park Sonya Heaney

A shared smile as Lady Catherine drones on.

The way she holds court in her scenes is perfect, and I especially love the smile shared between Elizabeth and Darcy when the woman just keeps droning on.

 Pride and Prejudice 1980 Elizabeth Bennet Mr Bingley

Questionable costuming and décor:

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Bingley at Netherfield Park

It has to be said that overall this production looks pretty dreadful. It’s not grand enough, and some of the costumes are odd. Though I am glad they didn’t try to make all the day dresses for the girls overly sexy, because that just wasn’t how it was (there’s A LOT of cleavage on display during the day in the 1995 version). However, the buildings are rundown and the filming looks cheap.

Pride and Prejudice 1980

I suppose though, in the end it doesn’t matter. This is a character-based story, and I fell in love with this Elizabeth and Darcy more than any other.

Outlander 1×12 – Or the episode where we wonder why everyone has stopped speaking Gaelic!

This is also posted HERE.

Outlander 1x12 Jamie Claire Sonya Heaney

This seems to be the episode that made even diehard Outlander fans admit the show has lost sight of the book. The funny thing is that while I had a few issues, it didn’t offend me and I wasn’t as worked up about it as I was about some others.

One thing I wasn’t thrilled with was the penises. Sorry, but I’m serious. I get that Black Jack Randall is trying to rape Jamie’s sister, Jenny. What I don’t need to see is the actor whipping out his penis and rubbing it to try and… you know… in order to do the deed. Remember in the past when people equated actresses with prostitutes? Well, I think these days it’s fair to say actors have rather a lot in common with porn stars… I don’t think it makes me a prude to say I don’t want to watch actors actually masturbating on television.

Outlander 1x12 Jenny Black Jack Randall Sonya Heaney

Don’t worry, I spared you the penis shots…

And then we had naked Jamie in all his glory in the stream.

Yeah. I don’t need to see that.

As for the rest of the episode?

Outlander 1x12 Scottish Scenery Sonya Heaney

I thought they did a good job with the scenery in this one. I also liked that they didn’t portray the English as totally evil (rather, they were helping) in the one scene they appeared in.

Outlander 1x12 Claire Sonya Heaney

I was complaining that we never saw the discussions about Claire and Jamie’s ages, a discussion that should have been in the last episode. Now that they put it in, I wish they hadn’t. Neither actor looks young for their age (in fact, I’d say Balfe was older), and trying to claim they’re a decade younger… did not work.

I’ve seen it mentioned that the actress playing Jamie’s sister would have made a better Claire than Caitriona Balfe. I agree. Firstly, we have the size difference (which is a big thing in the books):

Outlander 1x12 Jenny Jamie Sonya Heaney

She is also a more passionate character – as Claire is in the books. And there’s no way in hell I believe these two are siblings. They don’t share a single physical characteristic!

Outlander 1x12 Jenny Sonya Heaney

However, both Jenny and Claire came off as nagging and a bit nasty in this episode. I’m not sure why this show is being lauded as a “Girl Power!!” show when they portray women so badly. There was no need for their first scene together to result in Claire being called a trollop!

And then we have one of my big issues: why is nobody speaking Gaelic??!! When this show started, there was a big deal made about Claire not understanding anyone. And the promotional videos featured the language expert teaching us phrases.

And they’ve dumped it! Everyone is not only (unrealistically) fluent in English, but they’re ONLY speaking English.

Outlander 1x12 British English Soldiers Redcoats Sonya Heaney

This is basically a filler episode. I can see why fans are complaining about it, because not much happens. HOWEVER, this is following the book, and this is a slow part of Outlander, so I’m not sure what viewers expected!

Finally, I was a little bit pissed off with the supposed joke about the food offered at the dinner table. Basically, it was something we eat in Ukrainian culture on a regular basis. And – seriously – Claire from 1940s England does NOT get to joke about anyone else’s food!

Outlander 1×11 – or the episode where they conveniently had a witch trial years after Scotland stopped trying and burning witches.

Outlander 1x11 Claire and Jamie Sonya Heaney

This is also posted HERE.

This article suggests that many long-term Outlander fans are projecting their expectations onto their experiences watching the show, because the adaptation is failing on a few levels. People are seeing what they wish they were seeing, rather than what they’re actually seeing. I agree.

The reason I – and people who aren’t thrilled with every aspect of the adaptation – continue to watch Outlander is for the big moments. This episode had a couple of the biggies we wanted to see taken from the book and put onto the screen.

It’s the episode where Jamie finds out Claire is from the future. It is also the episode Claire decides to stay in the past with Jamie.

Outlander 1x11 Jamie Sonya Heaney

Did they get it right? Yes and no. Sam Heughan got Jamie just right – he was perfect. I loved his genuine regret for beating her. Better than the book, I think. However, they wasted so much time on the witch trial we missed some of the Big Moments from the Jamie and Claire story.

Outlander 1x11 Geillis Claire Trial Court Sonya Heaney

I do love how the television show tried to fix historical errors made by Diana Gabaldon (the so-called queen of historical accuracy!) in this episode. It was very clunky, but at least they acknowledged that trying people for witchcraft was indeed outlawed in Britain before 1743. It’s such a crucial part of the story, but also very much an anachronism.

Outlander 1x11 Crowd Sonya Heaney

The lack of head-coverings for the women is really starting to bug me!

The beginning of the episode is all about the trial. It’s different from the book, playing up Laoghaire’s villainy, which is a little disappointing. This so-called feminist show is doing a wonderful job demonising the pretty teenage girl. It’s bad enough the book’s fans (who are old enough to know better) already childishly call her “Leg Hair”. We don’t need to encourage more of that nonsense.

Outlander 1x11 Geillis Duncan Trial Court Sonya Heaney

Lotte Verbeek is perfect as Geillis in this episode. I did wonder why she wasn’t even mentioned when both she and Claire were standing there on trial together (all the evidence was against Claire) but she made the most of the scenes.

However, they left out crucial things – where did Jamie suddenly come from when he was supposed to be days away?!

And then they added others – Ned with a flipping gun?!

Outlander 1x11 Claire and Jamie 2 Sonya Heaney

But what we were all waiting for was the big revelation: Claire is from the future.

Was it done right? Well… no, it wasn’t.

I doubt many people who have read the book expected Claire’s big revelations about her time-travelling to be as it was done in the show. What I always remember from that scene in the book is Claire’s hysterical laughter, and Jamie’s goosebumps, and much more drama.

Claire’s quiet, emotionless revelations didn’t have much of an impact for what is supposed to be one of the BIGGEST moments of the entire show.

Jamie’s reactions were brilliant, but there was just so much missing from the whole thing. For example, show Claire might have shown the same courtesy as book Claire and warned Jamie about Culloden!

More importantly, we never got to see Claire start to disappear through the stones. This is how Jamie is convinced Claire is from a different time. In the show Jamie never gets any proof.

Less trial and more emotional time-travelling scenes were definitely needed!

Hmm. It seems Ron Moore really has no idea what is important to the story. I get that he wants to give his secondary actors something to do, but it should never be at the expense of the good stuff.