Little Women triumphs on the big screen
Fresh take on an old classic, Greta Gerwig's deft direction and a standout cast should make for an Oscar favourite
One hundred and fifty-two years since Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, and 26 years since Gillian Armstrong's heartwarming, Christmas spirit-themed version, the acclaimed American director Greta Gerwig has brought Little Women, a beloved coming-of-age tale back to the silver screen again. The new movie sees the director well-balanced between paying homage to the original material, as well as putting her own personal stamp on it, and the result is absolutely fresh, gorgeous and a delightful watch. The current version of Little Women features a wonderful cast, including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, and Florence Pugh. There are also supporting performances from Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, and Louis Garrel.
Almost every decade we're most likely to get a new version of Little Women, and the saga of its four iconic character sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. There is indeed a reason why Hollywood loves to keep revisiting Little Women. It's the kind of story where the main characters make us smile, laugh and cry; they remind us of what are our hopes and dreams and what is it to be alive.
Little Women tells the story of the four March sisters who come of age in the aftermath of the US Civil War. With their father away fighting in the war, the girls living alone with their mother, and trying their best to take care of each other. Each is determined to live their life on their own terms.
The story of the March sisters has been told countless times before, but Gerwig, the filmmaker who gave us her fantastic directorial feature film debut in 2017 with Lady Bird, absolutely has a unique vision on how to adapt the material into her own style and make it relevant to this era. While she sticks pretty close to the details of the plot, she makes her own stylistic and structural choices. Because with Little Women, you can play it as a comedy or a romance as the March sisters have their different interests. This version focuses first of all on Jo's ambition to be a writer, and on the women role in society during this time period.
The cinematography and the colour palette are gorgeous and on point here. It felt so luscious and every shot was done so beautifully. It retains a very film-like quality, which absolutely fit so well with the time period presented in the story. Add to that terrific production values in terms of costume designs and relocation shooting, it's definitely a great looking period drama.
With Gerwig's great sense of rhythm as a writer, not just a filmmaker, the film has its unique charms and features many beautiful and memorable musical moments, such as the scene where Jo and Laurie dance outside the actual dance party or the scene where Beth (Scanlen) performs a piano piece at Mr Laurence's house.
Unlike the 1994 version where the story reveals itself in a straight timeline, Gerwig's Little Women opens in the present day, then flashes back seven years, then it keeps switching back and forth between the past and the present until it catches up to the present. While confusing, Gerwig employs techniques to let us know what time period we're in, such as the character's clothes and hair styles.
For example, the scenes in the past where everyone's happy and together, the light is glowing with a warm quality. And in the present time when tragedy strikes their lives or they're in a bad place, the light is very grey and pale.
The real heroes and heroines of Little Women are the standout cast. Ronan is incredible here as Jo, the aspiring novelist and hothead feminist; Chalamet as Laurie, the boy who lives next door from a wealthy family who got involved with March family; Watson as Meg, the eldest sister who's fine as always and Pugh, fresh off her breakthrough performance in last year's horror Midsommar, is a scene stealer as Amy, the youngest sister and a painter who, in the end, has to choose between marrying for money or true love.
Despite this being a studio, big budget film, it's not inaccessible. Gerwig's Little Women is a movie that a wide audience will enjoy. It's made with a craft, artistry and a passion that you don't always see in studio filmmaking, representing a great example of how something can be successful and entertaining without being shallow.
- Little Women
- Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh
- Directed by Greta Gerwig