Little Women: Film Review

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott has been adapted for the screen many times, so I wasn’t particularly thrilled when Greta Gerwig announced it as her next project, but I love so many of the cast that I was excited for it anyway – and damn, they really deliver.

We first meet Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) when she’s trying to make it as a writer in New York before the film goes back seven years earlier to her growing up in Concord, Massachusetts with her sisters Meg (Emma Stone), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and mother Mamie (Laura Dern).

First of all, the performances are amazing. Ronan is reliably excellent in everything she does and this is no exception, she brought me to tears with her moving performance because I can relate to Jo a lot. Timothee Chalamet is just the best and he gave Laurie, Jo’s best friend (although he wants to be something more), some great quirks and personality. He has such a captivating presence. And the third standout performer is Pugh, who is continuing to solidify her talent. She is on a terrific streak and she deserves it. Amy is very selfish and the least likeable March sister in the book but Pugh makes her so human that you don’t hate her, in fact, you understand and feel sorry for her. There’s a scene between Ronan and Pugh that is a masterclass in acting and the mouth saying one thing but the eyes saying another. It is so subtle and brilliant and moving – nominations for these three please, particularly the ladies.

Scanlen isn’t given a ton to do here and is once again playing the role of a sick person – after Sharp Objects and Babyteeth – so she definitely needs to switch up her roles. Dern and Streep are reliably excellent in their small roles, Chris Cooper gave me the feels in one scene, and Watson is Emma Watson. I’ve never really rated her acting and she looks worse when working alongside Ronan and Pugh, who gave subtle, nuanced performances that look so easy and she looks like she’s “acting”.

Gerwig has chopped the film up into two timelines, one in the present with Jo in New York and Amy and Laurie in Paris and the other based seven years prior at home in Massachusetts. The film flips back and forth between them until they eventually meet in the middle. I’m not going to lie, even though the colour grading is different between timelines, it wasn’t always immediately obvious to me what timeline we were on when a scene began. It became more apparent as the scene went on and as the film itself went on but it was confusing and jarring at times. I think there were a few too many jumps between but structuring it this way was bold and emotionally resonant – oh yeah, I shed a few tears!

I must admit I haven’t read the novel – all I have to go on is the ’90s version starring Winona Ryder. I know that Gerwig’s plot is very loyal to the source material but I’m not sure if certain moments of dialogue that I loved where Alcott’s or Gerwig’s. There were some great lines about marriage and a woman’s freedom to work that felt so modern, as did Jo.

Some Little Women purists might not dig the new version because it has been chopped up and tweaked but as someone with no attachment to the material, I’m was totally sold on the retelling and the performances.

In cinemas from Boxing Day

Rating: 4/5

Trackbacks

  1. […] The World of Cinema: “Some Little Women purists might not dig the new version because it has been chopped up and tweaked but as someone with no attachment to the material, I’m was totally sold on the retelling and the performances.” […]

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  2. […] as he can be, but that’s probably down the material. Cooper, who was excellent recently in Little Women, puts in another top performance as the Colonel who just wants to save his town and isn’t on […]

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