When a man loves 'Little Women'

DelhiWritten By: K KrishnakumarUpdated: Feb 11, 2020, 05:24 PM IST


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This film is based on a classic American novel that was part of school syllabus for many in India.

Imagine watching a film called 'Little Women' at the cinema theatre and you are literally the only man in the hall.

I strangely got reminded of the time in my childhood, when I was the lone Kamal Haasan fan stuck in a movie theatre full of Rajnikanth fans.

Is this what has become of this world now? That guys just refuse to show up for films like 'Little Women'?

Or is it that the women refused to take the men along? That this was a strictly girls-only kind of movie. Mainly because they didn't want the men to ruin what they grew up with reading.

Mind you this film is based on a classic American novel that was part of school syllabus for many in India.

And it's not the first screen adaption. It's the latest. But could just be its best yet.

Critics have raved about it. It has a rotten tomatoes score of 95 per cent.

Now, why wasn't there any semblance of gender parity in the audience for this film? I'm hoping it was just the one show that I went for.

The fact that this film's woman director Greta Gerwig wasn't nominated raked up the issue of the lack of exactly that at the Oscars.

All of this year's Best Director Oscar nominees were male.

Speaking of which, it was nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Film, Best-Adapted Screenplay and Best Background Score. And won the award for Best Costume Design.

Chronicling the 'growing up' of the 4 March sisters - Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth - during the times of the Civil war in America, the film is masterful in bringing out the source material's eternal relevance and striking an emotional chord with today's audience.

The leading women of 'Little Women' are stellar.

Saoirse Ronan playing Jo March got nominated for Best Actress. The 25 years and a few more months old is the second youngest ever with 4 to her credit. While Ronan has not won yet, Jennifer Lawrence, the youngest 4-time oscar nominee by merely months, has already won the Best Actress trophy once for her performance in 'Silver Linings Playbook'.

The big change from book to film is the character of Amy March, which has been given new vigour with newcomer Florence Pugh's breakout performance. And she too got herself a Supporting Actress nomination. But she didn't win.

Laura Dern who plays the mother of the March sisters in this film won for her superb divorce lawyer act in another film - 'Marriage Story'. She is fantastic as the mother in this one too. What a year she has had.

And the legendary Meryl Streep does a splendid cameo as the rich aunt who's only advice to the March sisters is to marry rich.

Not because she's evil or anything, but because that was considered the only logical thing to do for women at the time. America too was as sexist as any other place in the world. Some say it still is.

I wonder what it must have been like for regular middle-class guys in the late 1800s. And how much is it different now?

Incidentally, there was an advertisement for 'Elite Matrimony' that played first before the film began.

There was a collective groan when the movie abruptly stopped after an hour to honour the age-old Indian tradition of taking a compulsory 10-minute break in between, that is referred to as Interval or Intermission.

The popcorn doesn't sell itself, does it? Also, profit margins are better on that.

The women's loo got crowded real quick. I had no such issues being the only entrant at my end of the facilities. The look that the cleaning guy gave me was as if I was out at the wrong time doing something shady. 

So I got back quickly. Only to watch the damn 'Elite Matrimony' ad have its second run. Yeah, that played more number of times than the actual movie people came for. Irony died a mini death.

At one point in the movie, the aunt tells one of the March sisters not to marry like their mother who fell for an ordinary army man. And that's brushed off almost like 'oh please!'.

Filmmaker Greta Gerwig's sweeping costume drama has lofty ideals. Both as a film and in the characters central to it. 

With excellent cinematography and a beautiful music score, the film makes for fine viewing for both men and women. And all the genders in between.

Louisa May Alcott who wrote the novel also released a sequel to it called 'Little Men' - about Jo March and her husband dealing with the lives of the boys at their Plumfield Estate School. That was made into a movie in the 1930s. But not since.

Alcott then completed it as an unofficial trilogy with a third book called 'Jo's Boys'. About the same boys growing up and facing real-life adult issues. Which has never been made into a movie.

Unfortunately, the 2nd and 3rd books are not nearly as loved as the first one.

Alas, we could have had a new film version of 'Little Men' hitting movie theatres now.

Although, I wonder how many men would show up for even that. They would still be queueing up for the Nth iteration of a superhero videogame/movie. Don't ask me why I put the /. I can't tell the difference between the 2 these days anymore.

As I left the multiplex, I kept thinking about the episode from the iconic TV sitcom - 'Friends' - where Joey reads 'Little Women'. Because he has a bet with Rachel that she has to read 'The Shining' instead. And Rachel wins.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)