FlixChatter Review: Little Women (2019)

As a fan of period dramas with strong female protagonists, naturally I’ve been looking forward to seeing the new Little Women adaptation. I remember loving the Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version, but 25 years is a long enough time to see a new adaptation from Louisa May Alcott‘s autobiographical novel about her own life with her three sisters in post-Civil War America.

After the success of Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig was undoubtedly poised to helm this adaptation that’s packed with a stellar cast: Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Florence Pugh as Amy,  Emma Watson as Meg and Eliza Scanlen as Beth. She re-teamed with Ronan once again, who apparently asked to be cast as the headstrong, modern protagonist Jo March. The film is told from her perspective as she reflects on her life in a non-linear narrative. It took some time for me to figure out which timeline is being told, as one has to really pay attention to details whether a scene takes place in flashback or present. But once the film gets going, it’s easier to follow and I was immersed in the March sisters’ journey.

Lady Bird was beloved by critics and audiences alike, but I must say I enjoyed Little Women more and Gerwig’s direction has the right amount of flair to make the story really come alive. Ronan is a consistently excellent actress, but she clearly reveled in this role. She’s so lively, passionate and fiery as Jo March, and her independent spirit shines through. The March sisterhood is endearing and emotionally moving, each woman’s journey is handled with care and most importantly, each is given a ‘voice’ that most women is deprived of in that era. Jo’s relationship with each of her sister is well-developed, especially the sibling rivalry between her and Amy. 

Pugh has quickly become one of my favorite actresses and the incredibly gifted miss Ronan has truly met her match in this casting. Of course I was as furious as Jo when she found out Amy had done that heinous thing to her (you know what I mean if you’ve read the book or seen the film). Their relationship is the most explosive, for a lack of a better word, without being over-dramatic, with each young performer fiercely holding her own. The speech Amy made about how the inequality of women of that time is a defining moment in the film. Though delivered almost in a matter-of-fact manner by Pugh, it packed an emotional punch. Apparently that whole speech was written in the last minute just before shooting, at the suggestion of Meryl Streep who played Aunt March.

In terms of casting, Laura Dern is wonderful as the kind, caring mother of the March girls. Streep is always great to watch and she even became a comic relief at times, but it’s Chris Cooper who’s absolutely devastating as Mr. Laurence. He imbued SO much heart in the role with barely any word spoken… and relationship with Beth, who reminds him of the granddaughter he lost, is particularly heart-rending.

I remember having a bit of a crush on the 1994’s version of boy next door Laurie (played by Christian Bale, natch!), but I absolutely adore Timothée Chalamet in the role. The Hollywood’s boyfriend of the moment has always been extremely watchable, but the way he looks at Jo with his longing look… oh my! And that proposal scene just breaks my heart.

Now, if I have to nitpick however, is the relationship between Jo and Friedrich Bhaer, the professor. Now, I can forgive casting a French actor (Louis Garrel) playing a German character (or someone with a German name), but I just didn’t feel much connection between the two and the scene feels rushed somehow. I remember swooning over Gabriel Byrne as Bhaer and the ‘my hands are empty’ scene was far more emotional.

Overall though, this is definitely one of the best literary adaptations and it’s a shame Greta Gerwig and the film was overlooked at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs. Let’s see if the Academy would rectify that. It’s a film with an inspiring message for girls and women alike, and a good one for boys as well to serve as a reminder that the journey for women equality still continues. In terms of production values, there are plenty to admire as well. The production design by Jess Gonchor is excellent, setting it in Louisa May Alcott’s family home where she wrote the novel adds so much authenticity. So is Jacqueline Durran‘s costumes that look era appropriate and fits each character well. The gorgeous cinematography by Yorick Le Saux and lush music score by Alexandre Desplat all makes Little Women a feast for the senses and one I think I’ll want to watch over and over for years to come.


Have you seen Little Women? Well, what did you think?

Ranking the BOURNE villains – from worst to best

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Every hero requires a villain and the Jason Bourne franchise has plenty of villains to root against. I do want to see him go up against other groups of villains though, as opposed to just CIA bigwigs and their hired assassins. Maybe for the next sequel, Bourne could take down some other group of baddies. In the meantime, here’s my list of worst to best villains of the franchise so far. Please note I’m excluding The Bourne Legacy without Matt Damon in the lead because that’s a crappy film and I don’t count it as part of the Bourne franchise.

Naturally this post contains spoilers so proceed with caution if you haven’t seen any of the Bourne films yet.

4. The Bourne Supremacy – Ward Abbot, Gretkov and Kirill

Even though it’s my favorite film of the franchise, I thought the villains were pretty weak. Abbot (Brian Cox) was just a greedy weasel who tried to cover up his mess when the shit hit the storm. Gretkov is a typical powerful businessman whose only goal was to get super rich and killed anyone who got in his way. I like Karl Urban’s assassin character here but he didn’t have much to do. He’s just another hired gun and nothing else. I would’ve loved to see more development of his character and maybe that epic climatic car chase between him and Bourne would’ve been even sweeter.

3. The Bourne Ultimatum – Noah Vosen, Ezra Kramer and Paz

I like David Strathairn as an actor but somehow I thought he’s sort of miscast here as the lead villain in this third Bourne film. Vosen is basically a Yes Man type of character whose main goal was to keep his boss out of trouble. To me he’s not menacing enough to be the lead villain in a spy film. Now the true villain in the film was actually Scott Glenn’s character but we saw so little of him that he became non-existent. Edgar Ramirez’s Paz was just another hired gun whose mission is to kill Bourne.

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2. Jason Bourne – Robert Dewey and Asset

In the newest Boune film, these two villains were given more to do than just trying to take down Bourne. Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) is an old school type of person and he truly believes what he’s doing is to keep the US safe from terror. He’s cunning and very manipulative and of course dangerous if you decide to cross him.

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Vincent Cassel’s assassin character was given some motivation as to why he wanted to kill Bourne and I thought it worked pretty well. He’s not just another hired gun who wants Bourne dead; he got his own agenda and won’t listen to reasons until Bourne is gone. For those who’ve seen the film, you’re probably why I didn’t mention Heather Lee. Well I’m not sure if she’s truly a villainous person or someone who still wants to use Bourne to climb the CIA power ladder. I think of her as the younger version of Pamela Landy.

1. The Bourne Identity – Conklin and The Professor

Chris Cooper’s villainous turn in the first film is still my favorite. He’s got as much screen time as Bourne and also has some juiciest and fun scenes. My favorite scene is when he found out the French police has screwed up and alarmed Bourne and then Bourne was able to get away, again. He’s started screaming in the CIA operation room and everyone was silent and scared shitless. I think most of us have been in that situation when your boss loses his cool and you don’t know what to say. His confrontation scene with Bourne near the end was another one I really enjoy, I thought Cooper totally outshine Damon in that scene.

Clive Owen’s The Professor wasn’t on the screen that much but his mysterious character somehow made more impact than other assassins in the franchise. His scene with Bourne before his death (shown above) is still my favorite; it’s quite and kind of chilling as to what these assassin has to go through in their daily lives.

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Ruth’s Take

I agree with Ted’s list though I probably would switch #3 and #4 because I think Brian Cox and Karl Urban are far more interesting than the David Strathairn/Edgar Ramirez pairing. In fact I barely remember Ramirez whilst all the chase scenes with Urban is extremely memorable.

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“I always work alone.”

I totally agree with Ted’s number 1 pick, and that chilling final scene between Damon and Owen is one of my favorites of the entire franchise. Owen displays such a compelling vulnerability as an assassin that made the character human instead of just another cold killing machine.


So what do you think of this list? How would YOU rank the Bourne villains?

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‘August: Osage County’ review from a fan of the award-winning play

This review is courtesy of guest blogger Sarah Johnson who mainly writes reviews for the Twin Cities Film Fest.

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Well, I’ll say one thing for “August: Osage County” – I wouldn’t wait until August to see it. When the play opened on Broadway in 2007, Charles Isherwood, the New York Times theater critic, called it “a fraught, densely plotted saga of an Oklahoma clan in a state of near-apocalyptic meltdown.” That sounds about right. It focuses on the Weston clan in the sweltering weeks of August. Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mullroney, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard and Benedict Cumberbatch play the male roles in the movie but the story is really about the strong-willed women in the family and a crisis that brings them all home.

After it won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, I saw it when the touring production came to Ordway Center in St. Paul in 2010. That was more than three years ago and I still think it’s the best play I’ve ever seen. Whenever I see the movie version of a show after I see the live version that I really liked I always wonder- Am I going to like it as much? I did and for two reasons.
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The first is the incomparable Meryl Streep as Violet Weston, the venom-spewing matriarch suffering from mouth cancer in a drug-induced haze. Her performance reminded me of Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? At a family dinner, she doesn’t just re-open old wounds, she rips off the scabs and pours a gallon of salt in them. It’s one of those hypnotic performances you can’t take your eyes from.
I’m not the biggest Julia Roberts fan in the world but she does a good job of stripping away her sometimes annoying toothy grin acting style and admirably portrays Barbara, the oldest daughter. (I would say as the oldest with her own daughter she has the most baggage but every character in the show has enough baggage to fill a stagecoach.) Of course, Roberts’s problem is she’s playing opposite Meryl Streep. Good luck with that.
The second thing I noticed about this film was in the opening credits. Tracy Letts, who wrote the book for the Broadway play, also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Of course, I was thinking after seeing the movie, who else could have adapted this? The movie is about an hour shorter than the play (the live version actually had two intermissions and, believe me, you needed both of them) but it doesn’t lose much impact.
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It’s obvious Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and Eugene O’Neill (Long Day’s Journey Into Night) were influences on Letts. Not knowing anything about his background, part of me wonders what happened in his life to enable him to write such a savage tale of family dysfunction? Drug abuse, incest, suicide, mental illness, alcoholism…yep, it’s all there.
Shows like August: Osage County ring so true because everyone can relate to them. But what gives this one an edge of reluctant comedy is when you start to think, “Geez, my family may be weird but at least they’re not as messed up as these people!” I think anyone could go on and on about the multiple layers in this show. Having seen both versions, I can say while the play seemed more visceral and intimate as you were watching this catastrophe unfold before you in real time, it closed on Broadway in 2009 and the national tour was only at the Ordway for a short time. If you didn’t get a chance to see either of those (or even if you did), the movie is your chance to see it on the big screen. Don’t miss it.
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5 out of 5 reels

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Thoughts on this movie and/or the cast? We’d love to hear it!

Weekend Roundup and The Company Men review

Happy Monday, folks. My friends in the East Coast, I hope y’all stay safe. I was glued to the TV screen Saturday night watching all the coverage and reading people’s tweets about Hurricane Irene, wow, I definitely don’t take this beautiful weather in Minnesota for granted. We are very blessed indeed.

Viola Davis & Octavia Spencer in The Help

Well, looks like even the 50+ MPH wind doesn’t dampen The Help‘s box office take, earning over $14 mil to take the top spot for the 2nd week in a row. It’s made almost $100 million total which is very impressive! In fact, female stars dominated box office this weekend, Zoe Saldana’s Colombiana takes the #2 spot with about $10 mil (per BoxOfficeMojo). Granted it’s a pretty slow week and the crazy storm in the East Coast surely makes a dent in box office revenue.

I didn’t make it to the movies as it was quite a hectic weekend w/ my hubby doing his third (and last) triathlon of the year on Saturday, but we did manage to see The Company Men we got from Netflix. Here’s my review:

The Company Men (2010)

This is one of those movies I wanted to see because of the cast, but the timely subject matter about corporate downsizing certainly piqued my interest as well. The story revolves around the employees of the ship-building corporation called GTX who must face the ramifications of being laid off from their lucrative jobs. Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is the first ‘victim’ who once earned $120K plus bonuses and stock options as a sales executive. Then when the second round of downsizing takes place, Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) and Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) got let go as well.

Each of these guys deal with their job loss in their own way, but one thing they have in common is how they didn’t see it coming and they live well beyond their means. Right from the start, the film shows us just how these people live in giant homes (Gene’s house is practically a mansion!), dressed in expensive suits and driving luxury cars. The lay off was a huge wake-up call for Walker, the quintessential cocky ‘suit’ whose mantra is ‘I have to look successful.’ He drives a Porsche which is obviously more than he can afford given he’s got two young kids and a stay-at-home wife. It’s quite a contrast to Kevin Costner’s character Jack Dolan, Walker’s brother in-law who lives in modest home working as a carpenter. [My hubby couldn’t help notice the Superman connection between the two — Costner is playing Pa Kent in the upcoming Man of Steel, and Affleck played George Reeves in Hollywoodland] 😀

The film offers a poignant message about corporate greed as well as what happens when one puts one’s self worth in their careers and personal wealth. The entire identity of these men are tied to their jobs, no worse, what they earn from those jobs. It’s a painful topic that’s relevant to everyone living in this dismal economy, even if we’re blessed enough not to get laid off, we’re affected by it in one way or another. The movie also shows the effect not just on the adults but on the kids whose parents lose their jobs. Walker’s son was shown to have given up his X-Box because he knew his parents can’t afford it at this time… it’s at this moment where it’s clear that Walker realizes he too has to make some drastic changes and stop being delusional about his situation.

DeWitt as Maggie Walker

I like this film more than I thought though it’s certainly not without flaws. It could’ve been more tightly-written and less predictable, and it could also do without the rosy Hollywood ending. But I appreciate the honest and almost its matter-of-fact-ness of John Well’s directing. Wells also wrote the script based on the real-life experience of one of his family members, combined with research/interviews with people suffering from corporate downsizing.

The performances are definitely worth a watch, Affleck doesn’t quite shine in his more subtle performances but he’s affecting enough and the drastic shift in his character’s demeanor is quite believable. Jones and Cooper are in top form as always and their scenes together are memorable, but Costner is a bit underused here though his character is supposed to represent the blue-collar workers in this story. The actor also doesn’t age gracefully, I almost didn’t recognize him from the trailer as he looks like he’s well over 60!

No, I’m NOT Idris Elba 😀

I think my favorite character is Rosemary DeWitt as Affleck’s supportive and sensible wife. I like DeWitt’s performance and her character Maggie who keeps the family together. I love that Wells wrote such a strong female role and hire the right actress for the job, though the rest of the female characters are far from being commendable. I just have to comment about Maria Bello, must she take her clothes off in every film?? Seems so unnecessary in this film that I find it very jarring. Oh and I also have to give a shout out to Eamonn Walker, who I thought was Idris Elba at first, apparently he’s also a Londoner. I LOVE his character Danny who becomes friends with Walker, their scene on the roof is pretty comical.

So overall this was well worth a rent. Too bad it bombed at the box office, but at the same time it didn’t quite have the same ‘oomph’ as Up in the Air which deals with a similar subject matter.

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Well, what movie(s) did you watch this weekend? If you’ve seen The Company Men, I’d love to hear what you think.