A Little Princess (1995)
September 30, 2022 7:54 AM - Subscribe

When her father enlists to fight for the British in WWI, young Sara Crewe must leave India and go to New York to attend the same boarding school her late mother attended. She soon clashes with the severe headmistress, Miss Minchin, who attempts to stifle Sara's creativity and sense of self- worth.

Starring Liesel Matthews, Eleanor Bron, Liam Cunningham, Rusty Schwimmer, Vanessa Lee Chester, Rachael Bella, Camilla Belle, Kelsey Mulrooney, Lauren Blumenfeld, Vincent Schiavelli, Time Winters, Arthur Malet.

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Screenplay by Richard LaGravenese and Elizabeth Chandler, based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Previously filmed as The Little Princess in 1939 with Shirley Temple.

Trivia: Liesel Matthews is a stage name. The young actress in the lead of this film is Liesel Pritzker Simmons of the wealthy political/philanthropist Pritzker family, who among other things, donated the funding for the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park in Chicago and the Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University. Pritzker Simmons herself is now the founder/head of the Blue Haven Initiative. Her cousin, J.B., is currently the governor of Illinois.

97% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Netflix and available for digital rental on multiple outlets. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This movie came out around the absolute nadir of the "boys won't go see girl movies" era in the 1990's, which often spelled doom for non-animated films with a girl in the lead. It's a pity, too, because it's positively gorgeous, with terrific production design and costumes, excellent FX and visuals, and a truly well-written story. There is a reason why, despite this being a decided flop, it launched a successful career for Alfonso Cuarón in US film.

It's pretty unambiguously great, an all-timer among family films.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:57 AM on September 30, 2022 [3 favorites]

My sisters and I watched this movie endlessly as kids.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:59 AM on September 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

I love this movie! It’s intense, visually & aurally gorgeous and tonally moody—and also, it changes a few things in its adaptation of the novel that make it so much more pleasurable for me.

1. Sara’s father isn’t dead, but wounded and amnesiac. The subplot of his dead comrade’s father looking after him is sad and touching, and his reunion with Sara is A+++.

2. She doesn’t rescue Becky to come and be her maid (oof), but instead Becky is apparently now her adopted sister.

3. Miss Minchin’s tender hearted sister Amelia gets to run off with her lover the milkman. Yeah there’s a brief fat joke when she jumps down to him, sigh, but otherwise, good for her.

This is always a beloved rewatch for me.
posted by theatro at 2:38 PM on September 30, 2022 [5 favorites]

I saw this in the theater as not-a-kid in my 20s and endlessly on cable afterwards. For all the changes from book to film, this movie captured something of the appeal that had me reading the book umpteen times as a child (and later).

It's funny, I don't think I've yet to see a version of A Little Princess that doesn't have the father turn up alive in the end. I can't blame them; I think having the father stay dead and introducing the surrogate father character is something you could only do in a mini-series adaptation where you see Sara age up a bit. But for a movie-length kid's movie, it would be too depressing. And I well up just thinking about the scene where Papa Crewe gets his memory rushing back and shouts for Sara in the rain.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:40 PM on September 30, 2022

In the late nineties I was taking a children's literature course at York University, and at one point I chose to analyze and give a presentation on A Little Princess out of a list of prescribed topics. I ran into difficulty when I found out that the professor had meant the movie, not the book as I originally thought. And I didn't own a TV or a VCR at that point, much less have a membership at any video rental stores. Oops. However, I was stuck with it, so I bought a copy of the movie on VHS (it came shrink-wrapped with a little locket that looked like the one Sara wears in the movie), and watched it at my parents' place when home on a visit, scribbling notes meanwhile. My mother, an elementary school teacher, sat down and watched it with me and liked it a lot, so she asked me if she could borrow it after I was done giving my presentation and show it to the grade one class she was teaching at the time.

I don't remember very much about my presentation, but I do remember I spent part of the time talking about the sustaining and transformative power of Sara's imagination, and about (author of the original children's novel this movie is based on) Frances Hodgson Burnett's firm personal belief in the same. For instance, Sara draws Amelia a word picture of her running romantically away with her beau, Amelia begins to imagine doing so, and because Amelia can imagine it, it subsequently becomes possible for her to actually do it.

I did then loan my mother the movie. She showed it to her class, and said that they all really enjoyed the movie (yes, both boys and girls!), and that after they watched it one of the girls promptly declared herself a princess, and the rest of the girls chimed in that they all were too.

Then I gave the movie and the little locket it had come with to one of my young nieces as part of her Christmas gift that year, and I wouldn't be surprised if she and her three siblings got good mileage out of it, so that VHS tape did not go to waste.
posted by orange swan at 5:13 PM on September 30, 2022 [9 favorites]

For me, the most resonant part of the film is Sara telling the headmistress that all girls are princesses, then asking if her own father had ever told her that.

That look of grief and wistfulness that crosses Miss Minchin's face, for just a moment, is so incredibly sad.
posted by champers at 2:42 AM on October 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Her performance is really great, what a monster.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:14 AM on October 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just watched this with my 6 year old. During the war scene, she remarked, “her dad should get a different job.”

I loved this movie from my first watch and was happy to share it with her. I’m a little wary of princess messaging but I think Sara illustrates that being a princess is about hope and kindness and believing in magic and remaining true to yourself no matter what. I hope my kiddo picked that up.
posted by kat518 at 8:53 AM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

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