Little Women (2019)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Sony Pictures;
Drama;
Box Office $108.10 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for thematic elements and brief smoking.
Stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper.

The latest version of Little Women, masterfully directed and adapted by Greta Gerwig, manages to find the modern sensibilities of Luisa May Alcott’s signature work while retaining all the trappings of its mid-19th century period setting.

Gerwig takes Alcott’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel that was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, and expertly translates the classic tome into the language of cinema, eschewing the linear narrative of the book and previous adaptations in favor of a flashback structure that better contrasts the childhood and adult lives of its characters.

The core of the story remains centered on the lives of the March sisters — Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) — growing up in Massachusetts around the time of the Civil War.

The film is filled with wonderful performances, anchored by Ronan’s confidence as Jo, and Pugh’s radiance as the bright-eyed Amy (both were nominated for Oscars). The exquisite period set design and (Oscar winning) costumes make for a film loaded with delightful visual touches that would make it worth viewing for those reasons alone.

But shifting the narrative back and forth between the two timelines allows Gerwig to focus on how the characters’ adult lives are practically responses to specific events of their childhoods, in a way that no doubt keeps the material fresh even for those who are fans of the novel or have seen the countless other adaptations of it.

Gerwig’s other spin on the material involves layering more elements from Alcott’s real life even more so than the original novel did. Historically, Jo is most often described as the most direct analog for Alcott in the story, as she’s the one who ends up writing about her sisters. And, as such, she remains the primary character of the film. But, according to Gerwig in the Blu-ray bonus materials, all the characters have some element of Alcott in them. In the very good nine-and-a-half-minute “Greta Gerwig: Women Making Art” featurette included with the Blu-ray, Gerwig relates that examining in her lifelong love of the novel in preparing to make the film, she realized that Jo was the hero of her childhood and Alcott is the hero of her adulthood.

Indeed, one of the best elements of the film is an ending that leaves much open to interpretation while honoring what Alcott once said was her original intent for some of the characters.

Gerwig’s script, while faithful to the original dialogue, plays up the artistic interests of its characters, emphasizing the struggles of the creative process, and how artists often face the choice of sacrificing the integrity of their visions for commercial realities (such as when a publisher declares to Jo that a novel with a female protagonist better see her married off by the end. Or dead.)

In crafting a screenplay that spoke to her as a 21st century female filmmaker, she suggests that this new film version becomes somewhat autobiographical for her as well.

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Other featurettes on the Blu-ray include the 13-minute “A New Generation of Little Women,” offering interviews with the cast and several of the filmmakers about the origins of the project, plus the nine-minute “Making a Modern Classic,” about looking at the story with a modern lens. The disc also includes a three-and-a-half-minute “Little Women Behind the Scenes” promotional video, and three minutes of hair and make-up test footage.

The best extra, in addition to the reflections from Gerwig, is undoubtedly “Louisa’s Legacy: Little Women and Orchard House” (labeled as “Orchard House, Home of Louisa May Alcott” in the menu), a 10-minute mini-documentary about Alcott’s real life and family. Hosted by Jan Turnquist, executive director of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House (the family home where she wrote Little Women), the video discusses what aspects of the book are based on reality, and the impact of the family’s real-life stories on the film.

The video also details the story of Alcott’s house, an old country home from the mid-1600s that has been rescued from destruction at least three times, most recently in 2002 when the walls were shored up and the foundation completely rebuilt to stop the house from sinking into the ground (the pictures of the house being propped up over a giant hole in the ground is rather striking). The real home ended up serving as the basis of the March house in the film.

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Interestingly, while this is the seventh movie adaptation of Little Women, not to mention numerous television and stage productions of it, not as much attention has been heaped on Alcott’s further adventures of the characters. Little Women was the first of what would end up being a March family trilogy, followed by Little Men and Jo’s Boys.

There have been three movie versions of Little Men, two of which were notably made more than 80 years ago, and a handful of television projects. But to date, there hasn’t been a Jo’s Boys movie — only an obscure 1959 BBC miniseries, as well as part of a Japanese anime television adaptation of the trilogy in the 1980s and ’90s.

Oscar-Lauded ‘Little Women’ Coming Home on Digital March 10, Disc April 7

Director Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated film adaptation Little Women is coming out on digital March 10 and Blu-ray and DVD April 7 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film picked up an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and five nominations, including Best Picture, Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Best Music (Original Score), Best Actress in a Leading Role for Saoirse Ronan and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Florence Pugh. The film is only the third Best Picture nominee in history to have been written, directed and produced entirely by female filmmakers.

Gerwig’s modern adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott masterpiece stars Ronan, Emma Watson, Pugh and Eliza Scanlen as Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth March, with Timothée Chalamet as their neighbor Laurie, Laura Dern as Marmee and Meryl Streep as Aunt March. The film draws on both the classic novel and the writings of Alcott, and unfolds as the author’s alter ego, Jo March, reflects back and forth on her fictional life.

Little Women earned $177.2 million at the global box office.

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The Blu-ray, DVD and digital releases include more than 45 minutes of bonus features, exploring how writer-director Gerwig led this modern adaptation of a literary classic and took inspiration from the real-life Orchard House where Alcott lived and wrote Little Women.

‘A Star Is Born’ Continues to Shine on Redbox Charts

A Star Is Born is still soaring.

Warner’s 2018 update of the classic film story continued to top both Redbox charts the week ended March 3. It took the No. 1 spot on both the Redbox kiosk chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red vending machines, and the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), both electronic sellthrough (EST) and streaming, for a second consecutive week.

The film, which garnered an Academy Award for Best Original Song and picked up eight nominations, stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga — both nominated for Oscars for their performances — as two musicians in a love affair on stage and in life. It has earned $212.9 million at the box office.

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Another Oscar winner, Bohemian Rhapsody, moved up one spot to No. 2 on the disc chart and maintained its second-place spot on the digital chart for the week. The film about the life of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock band Queen, won Academy Awards for Best Actor for Rami Malek, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

A new release, Disney’s animated hit Ralph Breaks the Internet, entered the disc chart at No. 3. The sequel was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar and made $200.2 million at the box office.

Two other new releases entered the top 10 on the disc chart. Sony’s horror thriller The Possession of Hannah Grace landed at No. 7. And Universal’s period drama Mary Queen of Scots, which earned Oscar nominations for Best Costume design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling and stars Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, entered the chart at No. 10.

On the digital chart, Nos. 1-8 maintained positions from the previous week, while The Possession of Hannah Grace landed at No. 9 and Warner’s romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, which debuted digitally last fall, nabbed the No. 10 spot.

Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ended March 3:

  1. A Star Is Born (2018) — Warner
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody — Fox
  3. Ralph Breaks the Internet (New) — Disney
  4. Robin Hood (2018) — Lionsgate
  5. Seuss’ The Grinch — Universal
  6. Overlord (2018) — Paramount
  7. The Possession of Hannah Grace (New) — Sony
  8. Nobody’s Fool (2018) — Paramount
  9. Widows — Fox
  10. Mary Queen of Scots (New) — Universal

Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ended March 3:

  1. A Star Is Born (2018) — Warner
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody — Fox
  3. Robin Hood (2018) — Lionsgate
  4. Nobody’s Fool (2018) — Paramount
  5. Overlord(2018) — Paramount
  6. Can You Ever Forgive Me?— Fox
  7. Seuss’ The Grinch — Universal
  8. Widows — Fox
  9. The Possession of Hannah Grace— Sony
  10. Crazy Rich Asians — Warner

‘Mary Queen of Scots’ Coming to Home Video

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release Mary Queen of Scots digitally Feb. 19, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Feb. 26.

The film chronicles the rivalry between Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) and Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) over the English throne in the 16th century.

The cast also includes Guy Pearce, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn and David Tennant.

Extras include commentary with director Josie Rourke and composer Max Richter, and the featurettes “An Epic Confrontation,” “Something About Marys” and “Tudor Feminism.”

Director Flies Classic ‘The Seagull’ With Star Power

Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss and Brian Dennehy are a just a few of the top actors that Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer was able to assemble for the latest film adaptation of the Anton Chekhov Russian classic The Seagull.

The film is available on DVD and digital from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Annette literally made the film happen because it was her signing on that made the project attractive to the other actors,” Mayer said. “Also, I asked Annette to do it, and then Stephen Karam could write with her voice in his head.”

Tony-winning playwright Karam adapted the film from Chekhov’s play about the obsessive nature of love, the tangled relationships between parents and children, and the toll of making art.

“We had an idea to do a contemporary feeling film,” Mayer said.

It was a hectic shooting schedule of just 21 days, so “it was helpful to have so many theater actors in these roles,” he said.

Ronan, recently nominated for an Oscar for her lead performance in Lady Bird, also signed on.

“Saoirse did an early reading of the screenplay, and she was incredible,” Mayer said. “I loved working with her. She brings great truth and bravery to her work.”

Moss, currently starring in the award-winning “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “was fantastic to watch and direct,” he said, while Dennehy “is a living legend and gave so much of himself.”

“The whole company was a joy to work with,” he said. “It was fast and furious and great fun.”

Corey Stoll, Mare Winningham, Jon Tenney, Glenn Fleshler, Michael Zegen and Billy Howle also star.

Another character in the film was the setting, a house on a lake that reflected the play’s Russian roots.

“It’s a house on a lake in upstate New York that is owned and operated by Russian Americans,” Mayer noted. “Our production designer, Jane Musky, who is of Russian descent, spent summers at the house when she was a young girl and remembered it when we went scouting.”

Bonus features include the Tribeca Film Festival cast and crew red carpet and a Q&A with Mayer and Bening.

‘The Seagull’ Coming on DVD, Digital Sept. 25 From Sony

The Seagull, starring Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan, will come out on DVD and digital Sept. 25 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Based on the play by Russian author Anton Chekhov, The Seagull is brought to the screen by Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer and Tony Award-winning screenwriter Stephen Karam.

One summer at a lakeside Russian estate, friends and family gather for a weekend in the countryside. While everyone is caught up in passionately loving someone who loves somebody else, a tragicomedy unfolds about art, fame, human folly and the eternal desire to live a purposeful life.

In addition to Bening and Ronan, the film stars Corey Stoll (“House of Cards”), Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Mare Winningham (Georgia), Jon Tenney (“Scandal”), Glenn Fleshler (“Barry”), Michael Zegen (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Billy Howle (Dunkirk) and Brian Dennehy (“Death of a Salesman”).

Special features include cast and crew red carpet interviews and a post-screening Q&A from the Tribeca Film Festival with director Michael Mayer, Bening, Ronan, Stoll, Winningham, Tenney, Fleshler, Zegen, Howle, Dennehy and Karam as well as a City Cinemas Q&A with Mayer and Bening.

Oscar Nominee ‘Lady Bird’ Coming to Disc March 6

Lionsgate will release the Oscar-nominated coming-of-age comedy Lady Bird on Blu-ray and DVD March 6, two days following the Oscar ceremony. The film is available now through digital retailers.

Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan as a wildly opinionated and adventurous young woman searching for her true identity as she navigates through adulthood.

The film also stars Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Odeya Rush, Beanie Feldstein and Tracy Letts. Greta Gerwig makes her directorial debut and also wrote the screenplay, which is semi-autobiographical.

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress for Ronan, Best Supporting Actress for Metcalf, and Best Original Screenplay.

Extras on the Blu-ray and DVD include commentary by Gerwig and cinematographer Sam Levy, and a “Realizing Lady Bird” featurette.