Little Women - Movie Review

Greta Gerwig's re-imagining of the nineteenth century classic
Greta Gerwig's re-imagining of the nineteenth century classic(Little Women)
Updated: Jan. 3, 2020 at 11:38 AM EST
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Louisa May Alcott’s classic nineteenth century American novel has been adapted into several feature films, a stage musical, a stage play, an opera and at least one television series. Writer/Director Greta Gerwig’s version is ambitious and beautifully executed. It stars three-time Oscar Nominee Saorise Ronan as the hot tempered, inspiring author Jo March. Jo is often considered the main character, although this version gives many other characters ample screen time. Ronan, as usual is fantastic and credible, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work here. The other little women (the March Sisters) are Emma Watson playing oldest sister Meg, Florence Pugh, in a star making vehicle as Amy March and Eliza Scanlen as Beth March. You would never know Watson is thirty-she is totally credible as the young Meg who grows into a woman over the course of the film. But Pugh, steals the show with her mature, heartfelt performance of Amy, who goes from bratty girl into a poised, intelligent, strong young woman.

The rest of the cast is superb as well. Brilliant and charismatic Timothee Chalamat once again proves to be one of his generation’s most interesting actors. His interpretation of Laurie is both complex and playful. They are few film actors of his age with his magnetism and depth. Laura Dern (who is having a moment) exudes warmth and elegance as Marmee March. She is both beautiful and maternal. Oscar winner and reliable character actor Chris Cooper is great as Laurie’s grandfather who forms a special bond with Beth March. Meryl Streep is restrained and credible as the wealthy, yet cynical Aunt March, who believes the only way for a woman to make her way in the world (meaning money) is to marry a rich husband. Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) is perfect as Mr. March. The ubiquitous character actor Tracy Letts (Pulitzer Prize Winning playwright) plays Jo’s irascible, blunt publisher.

Spoiler Alerts ahead.

Gerwig tells her story in a nonlinear fashion. This achronological storytelling bothers some purists, and it does pose a few challenges. For example after important story events occur then the story goes back in time and you think: wait is this character alive or dead? Or there will be a dramatic scene , a climactic moment in a storyline then we will flashback to a scene that negates the climax. However, in Gerwig’s defense 1. The story has been told so many times, I think a reinterpretation is welcomed 2. The original book feels episodic when you recall it: here is the part where she sells her hair, here is when Amy behaves badly and vindictively, and here is the part.. etc. If you approach the structure as emotional truths of highs and lows, much like real life, instead of a set of chronological events, you will be very satisfied. There was always something episodic about the storytelling to begin with. Additionally Gerwig definitely emphasizes the feminist themes of the story, and underscores female independence and strength.

Cinematic elements are gorgeous and a feast for the eyes and ears, including one of the best original scores of the year from Alexandre Desplat (two time Oscar winner) and gorgeous cinematography from Yorick Le Saux. The production design by Jess Gonchor is fantastic and the costumes by Jacqueline Durran are amazing.

Little Women is a bit too long, especially given its nonlinear storytelling but there is something glorious about it as well. It’s a refreshing old fashioned movie experience, a rarity today.

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