One hundred and fifty years may have passed since Louisa May Alcott’s autobiographical enchanter Little Women was written, but it continues to remain relevant through countless retellings on screen and on stage. In total, three adaptations of this coming-of-age drama have been filmed, yet none quite captured the sentimentality and sensibility of the novel like Gillian Armstrong’s Little Women (1994) —until now. With a rich trajectory of colors, lavish production designs and a skilled cast of personalities, Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ is a delightful awakening of an American classic.
Set in a post-Civil War era Massachusetts, the co-dependent March sisters — Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Amy (Florence Pugh) — do their best to navigate girlhood and the hardships of living. Though they’re poor, they have the moral guidance and wisdom of their loving mother Marmee (Laura Dern). And with the friendship of their boyishly handsome neighbor Laurie (Timothee Chalamet), their story is a combination of romance, home life and a rebellious quest to escape the gender constraints of society.
The reunion of Gerwig and Ronan from the nearly perfectly reviewed ‘Lady Bird’ (2017) is a pleasant treat. Both contribute their sophistication and authenticity to the picture. Gerwig isn’t a stranger to feminism and her cheeky writing aligns well with Alcott’s themes. It’s always a difficult challenge to make established literature feel renewed, but ‘Little Women’ accomplishes this through a manner of little differences in perspective. There’s everything from low-lit actors reciting their letters like monologues to the camera, or the use of a book with gold-engraved letters to open the movie instead of a typical title scroll. It even goes as far as to show the involved labor of bookmaking in the nineteenth century; a visual ode that will no doubt encourage a new appreciation and generation of readers.
Gerwig couldn’t have gathered a better group of actresses, who all transmit a sincere understanding of family with their first-rate performances – especially (Meryl Streep) as the curt and disapproving Aunt March. And despite the spectacular wardrobes and vibrant settings, Gerwig never lets the large production overtake the intimate exploration into the hopes and dreams of these women. But one critique might be of (Scanlen) as Beth. It may boil down to personal preference, but she doesn’t manage to capture the fragileness and delicacy of Beth March like (Claire Danes) did in the nineties.
‘Little Women’ is a tall glass of milk with cookies, and a memorable story that teaches the value of virtue over wealth. Come prepared with a handkerchief (or two) this Christmas, because those who appreciate genuine emotion will find themselves moved by the film’s sentiments. Highly Recommended!