Classic of the Week: Ordinary People (1980)

Ordinary People is a 1980 American drama film directed by Robert Redford, in his directorial debut. It his based on the 1976 novel of the same name by Judith Guest. It stars Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton. The story follows the dissolve of an upper middle class family in Lake Forest, Illinois, after the accidental death of one of their two sons and the attempted suicide of the other.

Judging by the title of this film, it sounds like nothing more than just the story of an average American upper class family, but it’s so much more. It deals with love, tragedy, depression, suicide and marital issues. It is very slow for a good portion of the film, but some scenes are quite intense, especially when it shows how Jordan died and when Conrad is attempting suicide. This is a movie that many families, even today can relate to. So many families go through these things.

This film isn’t really heartwarming much at all, in fact, it is mostly heartbreaking. It is depressing, but truly moving and inspirational. It shows how a family copes with tragedy, how death has an impact on people and how suicide is never the answer. It also deals with marital problems, realizing that sometimes a person falls out f love with their spouse and that separation may the key for two people to be truly happy again. This movie also deals with mental illness, not just someone wanting to kill themselves, because of guilt, but also depression, anger issues, anxiety and insomnia.

This is a film that not just psychiatrists should watch, but anyone who has gone through any like the family portrayed in this story. At times this movie is very slow, almost boring, but it is still very good. All the main stars do equally outstanding in their roles, making it seem like their characters are real and you’re watching a biopic , rather than a fictional movie. So well done, even if some parts are very slow, it does get to the point of making you think of how you’d feel in their situation. Robert Redford did great on this one. 18 & up 4/5

Little Women (2019)

Little Women is a 2019 American coming of age period drama film directed by Greta Gerwig. It is the eighth film adaptation of the 1868 novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott. The film star should Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel an don’t Meryl Streep. The film follows the March sisters in 1860s New England, in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

Although this story has been done to death on the big screen, on TV and on stage, this is definitely one of, if not, the best productions. No, we didn’t need another’s version of Little Women, just like another Les Miserables, but this one is a close tie to the 1994 film version, as far as being the best. Saoirse Ronan is outstanding as Jo March, Emma Watson is too as Meg March, Florence Pugh is great as Amy March and Eliza Scanlen is equally great as Beth March. Laura Dern is fantastic as their mother Marmee March.

Timothee Chalamet is great a small Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, making the character so believable and realistic, you love him at first, then hate him, then forgive the character and love him again. Meryl Streep does a fine job as Aunt March, as does Tracy Letts as Mr. Dashwood. Chris Cooper does really well as Mr. Laurence, Laurie’s father. Louis Garrel does a good, not great job as Friedrich Bhaer, the German professor Jo meets while living in New York. James Norton does pretty good as John Brooke, Laurie’s tutor, who falls in love with and eventually marries Meg. Bob Odenkirk, who plays Mr. March, the girls’ father, does good, not great, but that is probably because his character is minor, because he is fighting in the war.

This film is filled with romance, struggle, friendship, family, fighting, winning and losing and even death. It shows how life was for lower middle class, upper class and dirt poor families during the Civil War. The costumes and scenery are spot on. Some of the actor’s accents aren’t perfect and with a couple of stars in particular, an almost British voice comes out. The music is beautiful, so is the majority of the backgrounds. Parts of this film are a bit slow, others a bit rushed. A few of the dancing scenes could have been longer, but that might have made the film even longer.

The casting for this movie was nearly perfect. The cinematography was fabulous. No, we didn’t need another Little Women, but we got one anyway. This one is definitely a contender for best version on the story. Louisa May Alcott would have been proud of this movie. Is this one outstanding? Not exactly, but it’s not awful either. It is really good, but nothing more. But with seven other film adaptations to compare this one to, you’d have to watch them all to really say this is the best film version. But out of the ones I’ve seen, this is one of the better ones. Greta Gerwig knew what she was doing as director. She made a very lovely film that can warm and break your heart every time you watch it. Perfect for teenage girls and women. 11+ 4/5