There are certain parts of culture which should never be touched by the wrong hands. Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women is one example, and if there was ever a pair of wrong hands for the March sisters’ story to fall into, those hands belong to Lifetime. Unfortunately, Lifetime couldn’t keep its hands off this beloved tale and turned it into The March Sisters at Christmas. This version of the story is set in modern times, which is pretty much this movie’s equivalent of casting Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor. (Is everyone ready for tonight?!). Sacrilege, I say! Sacrilege!
I first fell in love with the March sisters when I saw the 1994 adaptation of Alcott’s book. That movie also introduced me to Winona Ryder as Jo, Susan Sarandon as Marmee, Kirsten Dunst as Amy, and Claire Danes’ chin as Beth. (Seriously, though, few things have made me cry as much as Danes’ performance in that movie. She and her chin are incredible actresses.) I then read the book, saw the two earlier film adaptations (one starring the incomparable Katharine Hepburn as Jo, the other starring, funnily enough, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy), read Geraldine Brooks’ novel March, and wrote a college research paper on Alcott’s father. In short, I’ve spent a lot of time with this fictional family and the author who created it.
So it will probably come as no surprise that Lifetime‘s latest Christmas movie, which turns the March sisters into modern women remodeling their house to save it from being sold, didn’t sit well with me.
Most of my problems with the film’s interpretation of the novel relate to the characters Jo and Amy. Here are just a few of the blasphemous ways the movie characters differ from their literary counterparts:
- In the novel, Jo March is an aspiring writer who entertains her family with exciting adventure stories. In the movie, @MarchJosephine (Julie Marie Burman) is a ghost-tweeter for a teenage pop star, and she’s also writing the singer’s autobiography. (How that makes it an autobiography is beyond me, but there you have it.)
- In the novel, Amy March is a naive young flirt. In the movie, Amy (Molly Kunz) is, as Jo calls her more than once, a “slut” who has had “strange battles with the law in Thailand” and acts irresponsibly with little to no remorse.
- In the novel, Amy burns Jo’s manuscripts out of spite. In the movie, Amy gets a hold of Jo’s phone and tweets naked photos as Jo’s teen pop star, thereby compromising Jo’s career.
I also cringed at the idea of giving lovely characters like the March sisters such scandalous dialogue. Jo suggests she and Meg’s ex-boyfriend “get smashed and dull our shared pain.” While the sisters curl up together under a blanket in the cold, an image that in the book or a better movie version would be heartwarming, Jo calls them “slutsicles.” When Amy tweets from Jo’s phone, Jo calls her a “little bitch.”
Add all this to the fact that the characters are always yelling at each other hatefully and bossing each other around, making them devoid of the charm and sweetness their literary counterparts possessed, and you have the perfect recipe to make me think maybe it’s for the best if the Mayans were right about 2012 being our last year on earth.
I realize Lifetime‘s jar of original ideas is full of cobwebs (hence all the “inspired by a true stories”), but that doesn’t mean they can reach for something as special as Little Women for inspiration, especially if the word “slutsicle” is involved.
See you later. I’m off to read Little Women in the hopes of restoring my faith in humanity. Wish me luck.