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.

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The Week: 30th April – 6th May

Blue Sky Autumn Sunshine Canberra Australia 24 Degrees Sonya Heaney Eucalyptus Tree Gum Tree 1st May 2018 Garden Nature

Still looking beautiful in Canberra, even though it’s the last month of autumn!

My review of A Devil of a Duke (Decadent Dukes Society #2) by Madeline Hunter

A Devil of a Duke (2018) (The second book in the Decadent Dukes Society series) A novel by Madeline Hunter

My review of Baby on Her Doorstep by Rhonda Gibson

Baby on Her Doorstep by Rhonda Gibson

Release Day for Mary Balogh

Someone to Care (Westcott Family #4) by Mary Balogh

Tribeca Film Festival Gives Russian Propaganda Film Major Award

Make Tribeca Film Festival Deprive Anti-Ukrainian Movie Of The Award Phone Duty Russian Propaganda Movie

Fund in Honour of Miranda Neville

Miranda Neville Frances Mallary Historical Romance

Release Day for How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation

How I Resist Activism and Hope for the Next Generation

A Devil of a Duke (Decadent Dukes Society #2) by Madeline Hunter

A Devil of a Duke (2018) (The second book in the Decadent Dukes Society series) A novel by Madeline Hunter

HE MAY BE A DEVIL

He’s infamous, debaucherous, and known all over town for his complete disregard for scandal, and positively irresistible seductions. Gabriel St. James, Duke of Langford, is obscenely wealthy, jaw-droppingly handsome, and used to getting exactly what he wants. Until his attention is utterly captured by a woman who refuses to tell him her name, but can’t help surrendering to his touch . . .

BUT SHE’S NO ANGEL EITHER . . .

Amanda Waverly is living two lives—one respectable existence as secretary to an upstanding lady, and one far more dangerous battle of wits—and willpower—with the devilish Duke. Langford may be the most tempting man she’s ever met, but Amanda’s got her hands full trying to escape the world of high-society crime into which she was born. And if he figures out who she really is, their sizzling passion will suddenly boil over into a much higher stakes affair . . .

A Devil of a Duke (Decadent Dukes Society #2) by Madeline Hunter

Madeline Hunter is one of a few historical romance authors who I think write “mature” stories – not mature in the age of the characters, but mature in style and structure. Along with the likes of Mary Balogh, Hunter stands out because she creates a strong sense of the era, and writes characters who believably operate in that world.

This is the second book in a series, but can easily be read on its own. A Devil of a Duke develops steadily as our hero duke and thief heroine dance around each other and learn each other’s secrets.

I’m not usually a fan of heroines who come from a criminal background, as it’s usually presented as being a bit of fun and the books turn into anachronistic romps. This one is different because the seriousness of the situation is considered, and neither character approaches their affair as something that would ever work in society. The hero considers keeping the heroine as his mistress, and both acknowledge the huge gap in their social standings.

A favourite aspect of Hunter’s writing is the friendships. Both her male and female characters have strong connections with people of their own gender. The women support each other and have interests beyond marriage and men, and the men are SO aristocratic and have ties that go back years. It makes the stories more complete, and we get to see the whole of the Regency world in operation, instead of just ballrooms.

This is another solid historical romance from a reliable author.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Fund in honour of Miranda Neville

You may remember that well-respected historical romance author Miranda Neville died in October last year.

Now a fund has been set up in her (real) name: the Frances Mallary Memorial Fund. You can donate through the link above; I’ve posted the full information about the fund at the bottom of this post.

 

Miranda Neville Frances Mallary Historical Romance

On October 26th, 2017, Frances “Fanny” Mallary, also known as Regency romance novelist Miranda Neville, lost her two year battle with colon cancer. Her death left a hole in many communities, from the tiny village where she grew up in Southern England, to Romancelandia (where her future novels and witty tweets are sorely missed), to her champion trivia team, to her adopted hometown of Newbury, Vermont. 

Fanny was easy to love—in no small part because of her charm, wit, and her breadth of knowledge that seemed to touch on almost every subject—and we all miss her every day. That’s why we’re asking you to help us create a lasting tribute to her at the Tenney Memorial Library in Newbury, where she was a board member.

Anyone who knew Fanny knows that she loved books. Not just romance novels like the ones she wrote, but all books—children’s books, young-adult books, mysteries, gigantic non-fiction tomes, 19th century historic novels (come on, did anyone love Jane Austen more than Fanny?), and everything in between. Which is why we felt there should be a way to keep her name, and her spirit, and her passion for great books, alive in her Newbury community.

We’re establishing the Frances Mallary Memorial Fund, which will allow the Tenney librarian to purchase books, audio books, or e-books in Frances’ name with a particular focus on the genres she loved most like history, historical fiction, and romance.

Our goal is to raise $10,000 by what would have been her sixty-third birthday, August 26, 2018. Reaching this figure would allow the Frances Mallary Memorial Fund to become an endowment—a self-financing vehicle that will continue to buy books in her name for as long as the endowment survives.

So please, think about how much you loved Fanny, how much Fanny loved books, and how much a fund in her name would have meant to her. We’d love for you to contribute as much as you can by making a tax-deductible donation here, or by mailing your donation, designated for the Mallary Fund, directly to the library: Tenney Memorial Library PO Box 85, Newbury, Vermont 05051

We all loved Fanny, and we all miss her. The Frances Mallary Memorial Fund is just a small way of paying some of that love back.

Baby on Her Doorstep by Rhonda Gibson

Baby on Her Doorstep by Rhonda Gibson

The Rancher’s Temporary Nanny

Laura Lee has longed for a child of her own—but she never expected one would suddenly appear on the school steps. With a note begging her to raise the baby girl, the teacher must find a new home since there’s a rule against children in the boardinghouse. Her only option is becoming a temporary live-in nanny for a rancher.

Widowed single father Clint Shepard needs a nanny for his daughter immediately—even if hiring Laura means he’ll have to find someone else in a few months when school starts up. But after spending time with her and the little girl she’s raising, he starts falling for them, and wishing their arrangement could be permanent.

Baby on Her Doorstep by Rhonda Gibson

I started this book a little distracted, as the heroine shares her name with one of publishing’s most famous erotic romance writers. This wasn’t the best choice for a chaste Christian book!

Baby on Her Doorstep has all the hallmarks of Harlequin’s Christian romance line: the abandoned child, the match of convenience, the single father trying to make ends meet in the 19th century Wild West.

I struggled to connect with the story in the beginning, because all the plot points seemed to be happening in a hurry, before we got to know or like these characters.

In the space of about an hour:

  • The heroine finds an abandoned baby, with a note attached telling her to care for her.
  • She meets with the sheriff, who gives her permission to keep the baby (it occurs to nobody to find out why the child was abandoned, or to find the mother).
  • She meets the hero and his daughter.
  • The hero offers her a job.
  • Hero, heroine, and both children go out to lunch.

After that there’s a time jump where we discover she has accepted the job and is moving in with him.

If you like books with these themes, there’s nothing wrong with this one, but it felt more like paint-by-numbers than others I’ve read in the Love Inspired Historical series.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Release Day for Mary Balogh

I have been really excited about this book that features a middle-aged heroine – a first for me in historical romance. Mary Balogh’s Someone to Care is out now. Blurb beneath the cover image.

Someone to Care (Westcott Family #4) by Mary Balogh

No one has felt the death of the Earl of Riverdale more keenly than his wife, the now dispossessed countess Viola Kingsley. On her way home alone from Bath, Viola meets an adventurous aristocrat at a country inn. Since she is being forced to stay for a day and night, she goes to the village fair with him and impulsively gives in to his suggestion that they run away together for a while—a brief respite from their lives of duty and responsibility. What they discover together is the last thing Viola would have ever expected…

The Week: 23rd – 29th April

 

Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin on Saturday afternoon. Blindingly bright sunshine and black swans. What a beautiful weekend.

Autumn Colours Autumn Light Tuggeranong Canberra Australia Sonya Heaney Anzac Day 25th April 2018 Garden Nature

FINALLY, some autumn colours! It’s been too hot!

What a week. Here, it was beautiful, and we had a public holiday on Wednesday, which we spent outside at an old pub, watching military guys – fresh from the national Anzac Day parade at the Australian War Memorial – getting increasingly… festive…

I am gradually catching up with my reading, but I’ll have more commitments in the coming months, and then will be away in Britain and Ireland for a month and a half, and I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment.

Then we had the good, the awful, and the downright weird in the world this week. An unusually-named royal baby on Monday. An outspoken misogynist going on a killing rampage in Toronto. Macron’s utterly bizarre visit to the White House.

Roland Scahill Korea Tweet

Before people start celebrating what’s going on in Korea, they should consider the words of people like Garry Kasparov.

I’ve been sick most of the week, so missed a farewell lunch with Ukrainian embassy staff who are finally going home after a decade, but was given a book as a farewell gift (because – duh – it’s me!). On the topic of Ukraine, there are still some 4.4 million Ukrainians in desperate need because of the ongoing war with Russia. I simply do not understand why it never makes the news when Syria, Yemen, Palestine etc. do on an almost daily basis. It is because people don’t want to admit there’s a war in Europe?

Apologies to authors waiting on reviews. They’re on their way! Sort of…

Anzac Day

Military_cross_and_othersMilitary cross and bar, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Pacific Star, Defence Medal, 1939-45 War Medal and Australian Service Medal 1939-45 (L-R) - Australian War Mem

My review of Marry in Scandal (Convenient Marriage series #2) by Anne Gracie

Marry in Scandal (Convenient Marriage series #2) by Anne Gracie

Release Day for Madeline Hunter

A Devil of a Duke (2018) (The second book in the Decadent Dukes Society series) A novel by Madeline Hunter

Release Day for Joanna Shupe

A Scandalous Deal (The Four Hundred Series #2) by Joanna Shupe

World Book Day

wbd2002_cmyk World Book Day United Nations

Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush