Romeo and Juliet Manga?

To say I’m not expert on manga would be a colossal understatement, a few days ago a manga version of Romeo and Juliet was released. It actually looks interesting, as it uses words directly from Shakespeare, mixed with the distinctive artwork.

Manga Classics Romeo and Juliet by Crystal S. Chan (Adapter) and William Shakespeare and Julien Choy (Artist) Cover

Manga Classics: Romeo and Juliet by Crystal S. Chan (Adapter), and William Shakespeare, and Julien Choy (Artist).

Manga Romeo and Juliet by Crystal S. Chan (Adapter) and William Shakespeare and Julien Choy (Artist)

 

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Little Women 2017 – Cast

little-women-2017

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 history 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.

maya-hawke-in-little-women1-a

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!

Little-Women

He was simply brilliant in the movie, unsurpassable.

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

Amy-March-1174517

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.

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.

50th Anniversary of Romeo and Juliet

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet 1968

Tomorrow 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.

When I was in Verona in February 2017 the old house that is now marketed as “Juliet’s House” had some of the costumes from the film on display, as well as Juliet’s bed. If you are ever in Verona, go *into* the house – don’t just hang out in the overpopulated, heavily touristy courtyard. It’s an incredible building in its own right.

Verona is an amazing city, and totally overlooked. The daytrippers really miss out by just glancing at Juliet’s and Romeo’s houses and then moving on to Venice.

DSC00697Juliet_s House Verona Veneto Italy Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet 1968 Costumes Bed Sonya Heaney Oksana February 2017

DSC00694Juliet_s House Verona Veneto Italy Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet 1968 Costumes Bed Sonya Heaney Oksana February 2017

DSC00696Juliet_s House Verona Veneto Italy Franco Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet 1968 Costumes Bed Sonya Heaney Oksana February 2017

 

The Week: 5th – 11th February

Friday sunset in Canberra

Australian Parliament all wrapped up in scaffolding for refurbishment yesterday afternoon.

2018 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

2018 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony

Kim Yuna lighting the Olympic torch.

Misty – and the end she didn’t deserve

Blind Calico Cat Canberra Australia 26th May 2017 Sonya Heaney Cute 1

We’re not a country??

Flags across the country have been lowered to honour one of Australia's former governors-general, Sir Ninian Stephen, who died on October 29. Parliament House Canberra 8th November 2017

My review of The Marquess Tames His Bride by Annie Burrows

The Marquess Tames His Bride (Brides for Bachelors) by Annie Burrows

My review of Shakespeare for Children: Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare for Children Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Must monsters always be male?

Cinderella Disney.

Cover Love

Carrying the Gentleman's Secret by Helen Dickson

Shakespeare for Children: Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare for Children Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet needs no introduction. Younger readers with be suitably introduced to one the greatest love stories ever to be written. Romeo and Juliet is the tragic love story of the “star-crossed lovers,” Romeo and Juliet. Set in the city of Verona, Italy, the play revolves around the feud between two affluent families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Despite the enmity, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet fall passionately in love and wed in secret. However, the enmity between both disapproving families overpowers and leads everything to go terribly wrong.

Shakespeare for Children: Romeo and Juliet

I was interested to see how someone could possibly tackle Romeo and Juliet to make it into something palatable for readers even younger than Juliet herself.

This highly condensed version of Shakespeare’s dramatic play focuses mostly on the title characters and devotes more time to the developing relationship than the death-fest that comes afterwards. There are some illustrations throughout.

In order to simplify things, some characters are changed a little. Paris is no longer some titled guy looking for a well-bred baby-maker, but is now a man who comes to the Capulet ball already knowing Juliet and in love with her. The nurse becomes some random servant in the background of the story.

I think the violent aspects of the story were explained as briefly and best as they could be for the target readers.

Still, it’s an extraordinary choice of story for a middle grade book!

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 8th – 14th January

Wednesday summer sunset in Canberra

Another week, another mess in the world… Today is “New Year” by the old calendar, if you need a reason to celebrate something this weekend.

Two stories out of Russia this week that I think are newsworthy!:

Russian man steals armoured tank, rams shop, steals one bottle of wine.

Russian man steals tank, rams shop, steals one bottle of wine.

Russian man steals tank, rams shop, steals bottle of wine..

And, more importantly:

Fewer than one in five Russians are okay with gay sex.

In fact, only 8% of Russians support homosexuality in any form:

Previous surveys showed that the number of Russians against gay sex has progressively increased, from 68 percent in 1998 to 76 percent in 2008.

This year, only 8 percent of respondents said there was nothing objectionable about sexual relations between adults of the same gender.

This is what happens when you let the church run your society and heavily influence your government. This sort of thing is happening in a number of former communist countries at the moment.

Coming Up for Brynn Kelly

Isle of Shadows A Risk Worth Taking the third book in Brynn Kelly‘s Legionnaires series

My review of Edge of Truth by Brynn Kelly

Edge of Truth by Brynn Kelly

Thomas Hardy’s Early Career

Thomas Hardy, OM (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, influenced both in his novels and in his poetry

Meet the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan

Meet the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan