BRAVO AND A four-hanky Mother’s day salute to PBS’s Masterpiece for taking a rare detour into the American archives, proving again that the march of time has been kind to Little Women.
Perhaps the most beloved sister actin all of literature, first published in 1868, Louisa May Alcott’s enduring masterwork of honest sentiment is a natural for film and TV. Being a classicist (as in TCM), I tend to favor George Cukor’s 1933 version with Katharine Hepburn over the 1949 (June Allyson–Elizabeth Taylor) and 1994 (Winona Ryder) remakes. And somehow I missed the 1978 miniseries with Susan dey as Jo, Meredith Baxter as Meg and Eve Plumb (!) as Beth.
The new three-hour (over two Sundays) BBC coproduction, filmed in Ireland, is one to remember. Warm and intimate, with an unforced realism that keeps schmaltz to a minimum, the adaptation by Heidi Thomas (Call the Midwife) echoes Jo’s epiphany that rescues her from writer’s block: “our house is full of stories, lives unfolding, wings waiting to take flight.”
Maya Hawke soars as an unaffected and unshowy Jo, perfectly plain yet entrancingly dynamic. Though cranky Aunt March (the ever-marvelous Angela Lansbury) has a point when she dismisses Jo as a “great ungainly windmill of a girl,” this headstrong and uncompromising heroine earns our respect and affection for her devotion to the other March s