Happy 150th anniversary, “Little Women,” but I think I prefer you back in the 19th century. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
Clare Niederpruem’s modern-day “Little Women,” created in honor of the Louisa May Alcott novel’s 150th anniversary, rights what many readers have long felt to be a horrible wrong. In this version, Jo (Sarah Davenport) does not end up with a tiresomely sanctimonious husband twice her age, oh no; here, Professor Bhaer (Ian Bohen) is a young academic who goes by “Freddy,” has written a truly awful-looking doorstop of a novel called “In Lieu of War,” and is, to employ a phrase not used by Alcott, smoking hot. You go, Jo.
Otherwise, there isn’t much to be gained by setting “Little Women” in 2018, other than the amusement factor of seeing the name “Marmee” as the caller on an iPhone screen, and of wrapping your head around the idea of Laurie as a plaid-blazered hipster. The story’s more or less the same — domestic Meg (Melanie Stone), fiery Jo, dreary Beth (Allie Jennings) and artistic/bratty Amy (played as a child by Elise Jones, then by Taylor Murphy) grow up in Concord, dealing with semi-poverty, sibling rivalry, love and big dreams.
Davenport makes a nicely fierce Jo, and Lea Thompson is effective in her few scenes as Marmee. But hearing Jo intone her dream of doing “all the things” and Aunt March caustically noting “How very millennial of you” may well have caused a wee bit of rolling in Alcott’s grave. Happy anniversary, “Little Women,” but I think I prefer you back in the 19th century; dreamy professors aside.
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★★ “Little Women,” with Sarah Davenport, Melanie Stone, Elise Jones, Taylor Murphy, Allie Jennings, Ian Bohen, Lucas Grabeel, Lea Thompson. Directed by Clare Niederpruem, from a screenplay by Niederpruem and Kristi Shimek, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. 111 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and teen drinking. Everett Stadium 16, Auburn Stadium 16.