Verdict: Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is one of the most phenomenal adaptations of the novel.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was first published in the late 1860s and has since been adapted countless times for the stage, films, and television. The latest adaptation comes from the remarkable director Greta Gerwig who has also written the screenplay for the film. This is Gerwig’s second directorial after Lady Bird, and once again, much to the chagrin of her fans, she has lost out on a Best Director nomination at the Oscars. But her film has been nominated in six categories at the Academy Awards this year, with the writer herself bagging a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. Little Women has also been lauded for the performances of its stellar cast, a fantastic score by Alexandre Desplat, and costumes by Jacqueline Durran that pay homage to the times the film has been set in.
What’s Little Women About:
For those who are not acquainted with Little Women, the story follows the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The novel pans their lives from their teenage years to young adulthood. In Greta Gerwig’s film, we are first introduced to Jo (Saoirse Ronan) in her 20s, trying to make a living in New York to support her family. Jo writes short stories for the paper and battles emotions for her neighbor Prof. Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel). Her elder sister Meg (Emma Watson) is married to the loving John Brooke (James Norton) but is deeply concerned with their economic instability, especially since her friends married rich and can afford pretty things. Amy (Florence Pugh) is in France with their Aunt March (Meryl Streep), practicing her painting when she meets their old neighbor Teddy Laurence (Timothée Chalamet). Amy always harbored a soft spot for Teddy but he only had eyes for Jo. After Jo rejects him, Teddy turns to alcohol for emotional support. Meanwhile, Beth (Eliza Scanlen) is at home in New Hampshire under the care of her mother Marmee (Laura Dern), battling a fatal illness.
One might assume that you cannot go wrong with a classic. But for a novel that’s been adapted numerous times, it’s a challenge to present the story in a unique way that would still hold the interest of the viewers. Greta Gerwig was up to the task and she delivers brilliantly. Her version of Little Women brings out the best in each character, whether it is the free-spirited Jo, the dauntless Amy, the good-natured Beth or the sagacious Meg. The story is presented in a non-linear format with flashbacks that take us back to the girls’ endearing teenage years and their friendship with the neighborhood boy. While the writer/director sticks to the original story, she brings her own charm to the narrative of Little Women, creating a film independent from Louisa May Alcott’s book. Her vision is ably supported by a cast that would be every Hollywood director’s dream.
Leading the pack is Saoirse Ronan whose feministic charm will appeal to the modern-day viewers. Jo is eager to break glass ceilings and be herself in a society that has many expectations from young women. She does not wish to marry and writes about women who are just as liberated as her. You can see why she would find it hard to profess her feelings to the man she loves, especially when she had easily rejected her best friend. Ronan and Timothée Chalamet make an adorable duo, having worked together before, but his pairing with Florence Pugh is apt. Pugh brings a sense of maturity to Amy’s role, and it’s a wonderful take on a character that was considered to be a “silly little girl”. You can also sympathize with Emma Watson’s Meg, who chose love over money and despite her longing for nicer things, never regrets her decision. Laura Dern makes a loveable mother, completing the family with the affection and wisdom she brings with her. She is certainly a remarkable actress, trying different kinds of roles and winning with each one of them. A special mention here to Meryl Streep who plays the prudent Aunt March, a formidable force to reckon with. Who better than the Devil herself for this part?
What Could’ve Been Better:
While it’s criminal not to have nominated Greta Gerwig for an Oscar, many debate that the writer/director should have picked a more original story. It’s true that Little Women has been adapted several times in the past but this is certainly one of the most phenomenal versions of the novel that is pretty flawless as it is.
Why You Should Watch:
Little Women is the kind of film you can watch alone, with a group of friends, family, or with a significant other. It is an endearing story that has been presented by a brilliant cast and crew and makes for a wholesome movie experience.