3 more films for the holiday season: Little Women, Song of Names and Spies in Disguise

Plus notes on a couple of new arrivals I have not been able to preview

We’re right in the busiest week of the year for movie going. Most of the big seasonal films are now playing and three of these just opened, on Christmas Day.  One, Little Women, has many awards nominations, with more to come, and has already won a few.

It leads the list for this week.

Little Women: 4 stars

Song of Names: 2 ½  

Spies in Disguise: 2

The Nightingale: --

Ip Man 4: The Finale: --


LITTLE WOMEN: One reason this book has remained a classic for 151 years is that young women have found they can identify with one of the four March sisters. Greta Gerwig must have favored ambitious Jo because she has put her story up front in this adaptation. Amy is secondary, with her selfish side considerably softened and the other two, sensible Meg and sickly Beth, a bit further back. There’s no harm to the story, it’s still about sisters and family bonds, but it allows more of a modern focus on the rules that impede women. It is important for you to marry well the girls are told by their aunt. Stories about women must end with them married, or dead, a publisher says. The novel offered a radical idea: think for yourself.


Gerwig’s version is warm, intelligent and beautifully designed and staged but with one difficulty. She bounces around in time, probably to show us the girls as adults as soon as possible and then flashing back and forth to and from their younger selves.  It makes the story harder to follow. It takes us out of it a few times to ponder where are we right now. It’s my only complaint. The performances are excellent, Saoirse Ronan as the headstrong Jo, and Florence Pugh as the self-possessed Amy and Timothée Chalamet as the rich boy next door.

There’s also terrific work in small roles by Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper and Tracy Letts (he’s the rule-spouting publisher. Remember he played Ronan’s father in Gerwig’s last film, Ladybird?). The look and feel owes some to the version that was made here and in Victoria in 1994 but all in all this new one is a triumph, a smart updating of an old story and a wonderful film for the holiday season. (5th Avenue, International Village, Marine Gateway and many suburban theatres) 4 out of 5  

THE SONG OF NAMES: Over 20 years ago, Quebec’s François Girard gave us a very moving film called The Red Violin. He’s back to the same instrument here with less emotional impact but with much higher stakes in its very involving story. It sets up a mystery and then gradually eases out an explanation involving a wrenching history and a boy’s grief over the loss of his family in the Holocaust. 


More in New Movies

Bad Boys shoot again; Adam Sandler gets loud in Uncut Gems and Clemency ruminates on capital punishment

And for the kids: A superior Japanese anime in Weathering With You, Robert Downey Jr. talking to the animals in Dolittle and your chance to sing along with Frozen II.

1917: a must-see, Just Mercy, a should-see, and Underwater, a don’t-bother

But do check out three others making a welcome return from last fall’s film festival

So many contenders for 2019's 10-best list, plus a festival of new and classic Italian films

There are no new reviews this week. That’s because except for one small horror movie (see below) no new films opened. There’s a sizable bunch coming next week but right now, especially as the awards...
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