What was old is now new once again…
Little Women is one of those tried and true literary adaptations that seem to get circled back to every so often in the realms of cinema. However, this time it’s a little different. Under the guidance of writer/director Greta Gerwig; Little Women manages to keep to its core values, find some modern feminine ideals and make it all seem genuinely cinematic for the first time in modern memory.
Drawing on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott, and unfolds as the author’s alter ego, Jo March, reflects back and forth on her fictional life. In writer-director Greta Gerwig’s take, the beloved story of the March sisters; four young women (Saorise Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen) each determined to live life on her own terms—is both timeless and timely.
For the first time in recent memory, Little Women actually felt like a story that is truly universal and with actors to match these distinct and completely relatable characters.
This is really one of those films where so much of the work gets done in the casting process and if they gave out awards for that sort of thing, this one would be taking them all home. In this very deft and subtle reworking of the source material, Gerwig manages to up her game in size and scale while still sticking to the very root of what brought her to the dance as a storyteller and that’s her unique and incredibly strong gaze on the unique complexities of the struggle of being a women. It’s a story that transcends time and rather than placate to a mass audience she allows for not only subtlety but genuine equality amongst all these characters to reign supreme as they take over the screen and ultimately our hearts.
Saorise Ronan here as our main heroine Jo March is unquestionably in her element here and we can see how their already existing working relationship pays huge dividends here as Ronan simply owns the screen allowing us to wade into the world of these March sisters. She’s our generation’s Meryl Streep and would have to actually make a genuine effort to screw something up. Florence Pugh is hot on her heels as Amy March as Gerwig allows both actors a fair bit of room to breathe which allows them both moments of genuine and relatable emotion throughout their stories. Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen more then hold their own as Meg & Beth respectively while Timothee Chalamet as the enigmatic Laurie really captures the eccentric joie de vivre of Theodore ‘Laurie’ Lawrence.
And as if that weren’t all enough with Laura Dern as Marmee March and Meryl herself as Aunt March we get what is essentially a dream scenario playing out on screen as one stellar generation of female actors give their blessing and seal of approval to the women who will be taking up the mantle for them long after they’ve gone. Rounding it all off we get Bob Odenkirk, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper and Tracy Letts taking up the mantle for the men who all get their moments to shine under the very balance direction of Gerwig.
When all is said and done, the real magic behind this iteration of Little Women is how it finds strength in balance between the genders. Sure it’s all set in a time where women have to scratch and claw for any kind of professional and personal happiness in their lives but Gerwig allows her women to be more strong and determined while still flashing those moments of self doubt that make these characters so relatable and beloved.
This is the kind of film experience that will not only lift people up but one that will allowed them to find strength in their flaws inside the dynamic prism that is family. Rarely does a ‘period piece’ feel so imbued with a modern soul.