In 2017, I published an essay called, “An English Instructor Asks: Did Greta Gerwig’s LADY BIRD Plagiarize REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES?” and then I tweeted it to every member of the Academy of Motion Pictures with a Twitter account. Lady Bird, which had been nominated for five different awards. It didn’t win any.
It did win a few Independent Film award, and a few Golden Globes before I saw the film and wrote the article, but whose counting?
I groaned when I learned that it was Gerwig who wrote the screenplay and directed the latest adaptation of Little Women currently in theaters. Adapting the work of others is really Gerwig’s thing, I thought. I’m either going to have to see it and then write about it or just choose not to see it while it’s playing in theaters and wait to see it when come out on Netflix where I won’t be tempted to buy the popcorn and the glass of wine–yes, the theater that I go to sells wine.
And then I saw this post that made me not want to see the movie at all:
I don’t actually agree with the first part of the post. As a writer, a feminist, and an independent woman, I feel there is plenty for me in a story like Little Women, and as a young girl, in the ‘80s, a strong female character appealed to me. Jo jumped off the page, and she loved to read and write, just like I did.
But what @freeblackgirl said about how many times Little Women has been adapted –eight times, “We just need new stories,” that hit hard. Real Women Have Curves felt like a new story and a familiar story all at once, a new story on the big screen that I could see myself in, like really see myself, and grandmother, and my mom and the city where she was born and raised. But movies like Real Women Have Curves, or Coco (which I also critiqued) are so rare and so dangerously precious.
How do I explain what it’s like to see myself, my culture, East LA Mexicans, people who sew for a living, work with their hands, represented and how that feels to people who get to see representations of themselves all the time, how much these representations mean, how, even when flawed we still love them, explain them away, and watch them over and over?
That was it. I didn’t need to see another adaptation of Little Women in the theater, and I didn’t need to see another Gerwig movie either.
Then my friend Jen sent me a message asking if I wanted to see Little Women. We are both teachers and we always see a movie together during winter break. I’ll do anything for Jen, my ride-or-die, so I agreed to meet her the next day at our favorite movie theater that serves wine, but I didn’t have any because I was fighting a cold (more on this shortly). Before heading out to the theater, a few of my friends posted that they had seen the movie and really liked it, so I decided that I had to give it a chance, to set my feelings about how uncomfortably close Lady Bird is to Real Women Have Curves, and not to compare Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women to the 1994 adaptation which I really liked. It starred Winona Ryder and Jeff Bale as a brooding, playful, complex Laurie, and the miscast Susan Sarandon as Marmie.
From the way Jen and I acted, or reacted to the movie, you would have thought we had actually had wine. We kept giggling and then the giggling escalated. First I got confused by the timeline, all the jumping back and forth in time. Then we got hung up on the inconsistent dialogue and accents — sometimes their diction sounded like New Englanders during the late 1860s and other times the March sisters sounded like a bunch of Millennials. By the time Beth died we were laughing so hard that the people behind us thought that we were sobbing and the guy in front wanted to punch us out. When Bob Odenkirk showed up on the screen as Father, I almost had to exit the theater. I managed to calm myself by repeating “think of something sad, thing of something sad.”
Suffice it to say, I didn’t like the 2019 adaptation of Little Women very much at all, but I’d happily rewatch Winona Ryder in this scene of the 1994 adaptation:
“I find it poor logic to say that women should vote because they are good. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are men, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country.”
“You should have been a lawyer, Miss March.”
“I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayer”
Better yet, how about some new stories? I have a great many to tell.
Posted in: Reviews