April 24, 2013

A Little Princess cont.

That post was running so long that I figured no one would read it, so I've split it up into two.  This is where the movie just explodes into something that doesn't even resemble the book.

It's actually set up way in advance, right when Sara is demoted to servant. Sara's father has been writing to her about his new investment, diamond mines.  A good friend has decided to split the proceeds with him, and this works the school into such a frenzy that Sara is to have the biggest, most lavish 11th birthday party in history. Unfortunately, her biggest surprise is her father's solicitor with the news that there aren't any diamond mines...and Captain Crewe is dead. His buddy ran out on him, he contracted a severe illness, and it was those three blows that killed him.  Sara is orphaned and penniless, forced to work for the Minchins if she wants a place to stay.

As she travels the town on errands, Sara takes note of the school's immediate neighbors and makes up stories about them.  Directly next door is a frail, ill man that recently returned from India with a servant and a reclusive nature, having lost most of his fortune. Because of this, Sara is particularly drawn to fantasizing about "The Indian Gentleman" and why a pall hangs over his entire house.  "The Large Family" a.k.a. "The Montmorencys" a.k.a. the Carmichaels (their real surname) are a happy, raucous bunch with 8 children that Sara has elegantly named and weaved stories about.  Little Donald Carmichael has just been told about people less fortunate than him, which inspired him to find a beggar on the street and give them sixpence. He happens to bump into Sara, who accepts his donation with such grace and style that his older sisters don't believe she's a beggar at all.  They are fascinated by Sara, and make up stories of their own about her.  Their father just so happens to be the solicitor of Mr. Tom Carrisford, who lives right next door to the school.  Tom was in India a few years back when a business deal went sour and he was too cowardly to face it.  He ran out on his delirious buddy Ralph Crewe, and is still haunted by how often Crewe spoke of his beloved little girl.   But the diamond mines were profitable after all, and now that Carrisford is rich again, he hopes to find this child and return her rightful fortune.

After a wild goose chase through France and Russia finds nothing, Carrisford hopes to soothe his guilty feelings by reaching out to his lawyer's children, who tell him stories of a poor girl who acts like a princess in disguise. His servant Ram Dass also tells him about the little girl who inexplicably speaks Hindustani and was nice enough to return their pet monkey when he jumped through her window.  Even he was appalled by her living conditions.  Together, they construct a plan to surprise Sara with an extra blanket, some food, the comforts of home that people take for granted.  She and Becky are convinced it's magic.  Eventually, Carrisford just starts sending packages directly to "the little girl in the right-hand attic".  Sara is delighted to have a friend.

When Carrisford's monkey escapes yet again, Sara takes it upon herself to return him personally, surprising the men with the fact that she also came from India.  The little girl they've been looking for has literally been right next door.  "It is you who are my friend!"   

When Minchin finds out about this and goes to drag her little royal pain home, she's told in no uncertain terms that Sara is never going back to the school, and she's rich enough to buy and sell the entire city if she wanted.  Sara is adopted by "Uncle Tom",  Becky is retained as Sara's personal servant,  Amelia tells off Maria (effectively revealing Miss Minchin as nothing more than a bitter little girl herself) and everyone who deserves a happy ending gets one.

The movie? Well...Becky is Sara's personal servant.

There is no "Large Family".  The man next door has no connection to India, but his son has been killed in the war that Crewe has also been "killed" in, and he's distraught over it.   He cannot find his son, but he comes across another badly injured man that needs better help than the triage can give him and is persuaded to take this man home with him.  Apparently, Hanuman the monkey and The Magic have been redecorating Sara's room.  Minchin finds out that the other girls have stolen Sara's locket, and she follows them up to the attic where she confronts Sara, who then climbs out of the window and scrambles along the rooftops in the pouring rain to the house next door.  There, she just happens to land in the room of the injured man and is shocked to discover he's her father.  Of course, the man has no memory of Sara, no matter how much she pleads, and the cops are dragging Sara away until-WAIT! I have my memory back and that's my kid!

So Sara and her father are reunited,  Becky is retained as Sara's personal servant, LAVINIA hugs Sara goodbye, and Miss Minchin is now working for the same people she belittled every day.  WHAAAAAAT!?!?

I suppose this is to let the movie have a happy ending.  The Temple movie had Crewe become blind, so he didn't recognize the little girl in the room as his daughter.  But both movies do a great injustice to the book.

So what you're saying, movie, is that the book's ending wasn't "happy"?? That adoptive parents aren't nearly as good as real parents?  What lessons would Sara have learned had her father just been handed back to her after all that time?  That if you wish hard enough, impossible things will happen regardless of the likelihood of them actually happening? That sounds really good, but how many of you have had a dead relative come back simply because you really needed them and loved them and you were good to everyone?

What you need in life isn't always what you want out of it.  We don't always get rewarded for being good, or punished for being bad.  People steal money and break hearts every day.  Homeless children who behave as best as they possibly can don't seem to end up on Santa's Nice list.  Does Lottie deserve to be motherless? She's certainly a brat in the story, but her mother died soon after she was born.  Ermengarde?  Certainly she was slow, but that doesn't mean that her mother should have died as well.  Lavinia isn't nice to anyone, and her mother's alive.  And if Sara is so pure and so deserving of miracles, then why did HER mother also die?

Captain Crewe may not have come back, but Sara is loved and provided for just the same.  She DID benefit from always looking up and carrying herself well.  She is able to bring light into the life of a man who had none, and at the end of the book, she is on her way to set up a donation fund at the bakery where she gave her food away.  She finds that the little beggar girl she was so kind to was taken in by the baker, because she was so touched by what Sara did.  All of her friends overcame problems that would not have been solved had Sara not entered their lives.  And Sara herself has been brought out of her shell, experienced life at all levels of society, realizing that life sucks for most people until they realize you can either be bitter about it, or be grateful that you have a life at all.  Miss Minchin may not have lost her job, and she may not change her ways, but that is presented as her loss.  She's forced to relive what she did every day as she watches Sara out her window, knowing full well that she got what she deserved. Again, the bad guys don't have to be publicly humiliated, even in a kids' movie, in order to show that they "lost". 

This is what the movie takes away from the book. 

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