A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

A Little Princess (1986)

July 10, 2011

A Little Princess (1986)

I know that there have been many adaptations of this story through the years, and likewise I know that for Amanda there is only one in her heart. This is the three hour Wonderworks version produce originally as a British television miniseries. I have only seen it once before (at Amanda’s insistence) and my recollection of it is vague. Before we put it in tonight I went over the plot in my head, and I couldn’t figure out how it worked out to three hours. It’s a pretty simple plot, really, and it seemed to me that there was no way it could be that long without feeling padded.

This is the story of Sara, a young girl sent by her father to a boarding school in London. He is a captain in the army living in India who seems to be doing pretty well for himself. I don’t know if it’s ever established where it came from but he has a small fortune at the start of the movie. In addition to being able to send his daughter to an exclusive school with her own room, her own French maid, and her own personal coach and pony, he is able to invest heavily in a good friend’s diamond mine.

Sara is not your typical British school girl. Her father is very clearly well off, and she has plenty of pretty dresses and silk stockings and such but it’s a relatively recent happening. She was raised by her father in India amongst exotic animals and people. She is his “little soldier.” As such she is not given to airs. She is a level headed young woman for her age of eleven years old. Some of her peers resent her for “flaunting” her wealth but she does’t really. She is quick to make unlikely friends. She befriends the unpopular girl in school, and a scullery maid, and becomes surrogate mother to a younger girl who like her has no mother.

Then disaster strikes. The diamond mine her father invested in apparently has no diamonds and he is destitute. He is so devastated that he will be unable to keep his daughter in the fine manner that he seems to think she deserves that he dies of a broken heart – or so it is implied. Miss Minchin, the pinched and bitter head of the seminary Sara is attending, feels betrayed that her most profitable student is abruptly penniless and unable to settle her accounts. Miss Minchin wants initially to turn Sara out into the streets to fend for herself, but she is convinced by Sara’s solicitor to keep her on as a servant. Sara is forced to work off her debt in the kitchens, living in an unheated attic room with often nothing to eat.

The key to this story is, of course that Sara is the most kindly, decent, caring and giving person who ever lived. Even when she’s destitute, hungry, tired and cold she still finds it in her heart to help her friends. She takes refuge in books and stories, and in her own imagination. She befriends a mouse, and a monkey and the mysterious Sikh who has moved into the vacant building next door with his reclusive invalid master. Of course this kindness does not go unrewarded in the end and she does eventually find herself able to help all of her friends.

Now, I’m clearly not the target audience for this. Amanda is. It is intended for smart, bookish girls. It’s a moral tale about how if you treat people right and behave properly miracles can happen. It’s a simple little story about good things happening to good people in spite of the horrid nature of the world. I appreciate that message, and I wish it were more prevalent.

Really this is a charming, uplifting tale. It’s beautifully put together and although this is one of the longest movies in our collection I never felt that it was padded or drawn out. Three hours went by in no time at all because it’s just so much fun to watch Sara and her adventures. Of course you could not manufacture anything better designed to appeal to my wife as a young girl, and I appreciate that as well. It’s a perfect gem of a movie and I see why Amanda takes such delight in it.

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July 10, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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