Greta Gerwig‘s post-‘Lady Bird‘ female centred ‘Little Women‘, based on the acclaimed novel by Louisa May Alcott, takes us back to the late 19th century in which we follow the lives of the March-family. Numerous adaptations have been made over the past few decades, but Gerwig elevates the material, translating it in a way to appeal to modern audiences, without ever losing the essence of the well known story.
When we first meet the talented Jo (Saoirse Ronan), she’s living in New York, teaching girls literature and trying to sell her own stories to the local newspaper. While Jo lives her best life, her hopeless romantic sister Amy (Florence Pugh) lives with her old fashioned aunt (Meryl Streep) in Paris, attending painting classes while hoping for a true love to come rescue her. Other sister Meg (Emma Watson) is happily married with kids and the musically gifted Beth (Eliza Scanlen) has been bedridden with a severe illness. When Jo gets news about Beth’s state quickly deteriorating, she leaves everything behind and jumps on the first train home. While Jo naps, we flash back to easier times seven years earlier, when all sisters still lived merrily under one roof.
The first thing you’ll notice is the scale on which all of this has been made. Extraordinary production design inside the old mansions surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of Massachusetts, where Little Women was filmed. Let Academy Award winning (for his scores of ‘The Shape of Water‘ and ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel‘) composer Alexandre Desplat set the tone for each scene with his classically infused orchestra, and all you need is talent on screen and on paper.
Luckily Gerwig knows how to write a terrific screenplay and the cast has the most incredible chemistry. The dialogue is riddled with timely jokes and hopelessly romantic discussions, perfect for that time period. It’s all part of a bigger picture in which each character has their own story to tell. Saoirse Ronan‘s (Lady Bird) radiant presence is again noteworthy, more so, she is quickly becoming the best actress in the business. While rising star Florence Pugh (Midsommar) as the truly hilarious and hopelessly obsessed with love, wealth and looks Amy, gives another career defining performance, to leave a mark on today’s moviegoers’ memory. It’s when all four sisters and their mother (played by a comforting Laura Dern) first appear on screen, you’ll fall in love with this family. There’s a cosiness and homely feeling to their interactions, that will warm you up from the inside. Something this innocent and safe hasn’t been brought to the big screen in a very long time and Gerwig knows just how to control your emotions.
After a lot of going back and forth in time – which is quite confusing to begin with, but you get more used to it further down the line when both timelines move forward to meet in the middle – the final third of the film builds up to a gut wrenching conclusion. For some reason, the actual heartbreaking event isn’t so much of a surprise, it’s the aftermath that truly shatters your heart into tiny pieces and leaves you gasping for air while tears roll down your cheek. Little Women is just as heartwarming as it is excruciatingly sad. Greta Gerwig has made a timeless classic that exudes love. Watching this film will for sure become a new Christmas tradition in many households. What a wonderful gift.
Review – ‘Little Women’
Reviewed at Event Cinemas, Sydney, Dec. 11, 2019. Australian Classification: G. Running time: 134 min.
PRODUCTION: A Sony Pictures Releasing release, in association with New Regency Pictures, of a Columbia Pictures, Pascal Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Sony Pictures Entertainment production. Producers: Denise Di Novi, Amy Pascal, Robin Swicord. Executive producers: Adam Merims, Arnon Milchan, Rachel O’Connor, Evelyn O’Neill.
CREW: Director/Screenplay: Greta Gerwig. Based on the novel by: Louisa May Alcott. Camera (color, widescreen): Yorick Le Saux. Editor: Nick Houy. Music: Alexandre Desplat.
WITH: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep, Jayne Houdyshell.