Director: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Louis Garrel, Tracy Letts, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlen, Meryl Streep, Emma Watson
RunTime: 2 hrs 15 mins
Released By: Sony Pictures
Opening Day: 16 January 2020
Synopsis: Writer-director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) has crafted a Little Women that draws 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 Gerwig’s take, the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on her own terms -- is both timeless and timely. Portraying Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth March, the film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, with Timothee Chalamet as their neighbor Laurie, Laura Dern as Marmee, and Meryl Streep as Aunt March.
This reviewer is not much of a reader. Mention classic novels like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and he’d tell you that there are film adaptations of these great literary works out there. And that he’d choose to watch them over flipping through the pages of a thick printed book.
This isn’t the proudest trait to shout about, but there are probably others like this writer who prefer the visual medium instead of imagining stories through printed material.
When news got out that Greta Gerwig is helming the seventh film adaptation version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, this reviewer knew that it was the perfect opportunity to finally know why this coming of age tale is so celebrated. Gerwig’s first solo directorial effort was the highly lauded Lady Bird (2017), which also deals with a coming age theme. Hence, telling the screen story of four sisters growing up during and after the Civil War should be a breeze for the talented 36 year old filmmaker.
For the uninitiated, Little Women follows the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, the four March sisters whose father is off fighting the war. The ladies face hardships and social expectations, and we see them grow from girls to women. The story is believed to be loosely based on Alcott’s life with her three sisters.
On paper, the story has the potential to be preachy and old fashioned. You know, it could have turned out like one of those righteous tales about how women do not have it easy when it comes to earning their places in the society. To this writer’s pleasant surprise, the 135 minutes throughout the film were entirely engaging and the themes explored feel relevant although the source material has its roots in the 1860s (the novel was published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869).
A winning factor of this film is its ensemble cast. Leading the March sisters is Jo played by Saoirse Ronan, who worked with Gerwig on Lady Bird. Here, she portrays the protagonist with lots of heart. There are many instances where she gets to display a wide range of emotions, reflecting the different life stages the character goes through. With a Best Actress nomination for her performance, Ronan has made history by becoming the second youngest four time nominee. Another standout character in this film adaptation is Amy March played by Florence Pugh. After her unforgettable performance in Midsommar (2019), the 24 year old actress has shown viewers and critics the maturity of her acting skills by leaving a lasting impression with her noteworthy portrayal of the emotionally volatile sister.
Elsewhere, Emma Watson is ever so pretty as likeable Meg March and Eliza Scanlen will break hearts as the physically unwell Beth March. Lauren Dern and Bob Odenkirk take on the roles of the sisters’ parents, while Meryl Streep has the showy role of a frumpy aunt. Oh, how can we forget Timothée Chalamet and his gorgeous flock of unkempt hair – the actor plays an important male character who makes an impact on two of the sisters’ lives. The impressive cast also includes Chris Cooper, Tracy Letts and James Norton.
Of course, it is the four sisters who take centrestage in this well made film. Told through flashbacks and flash forwards, the story brings viewers to various important periods in the sisters’ lives, and the pacing is perfect. You won’t feel confused by the transition from one period to another, and this is the outcome of a good screenplay, which in this case is penned by Gerwig (she received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, but was snubbed in the Best Director category).
When the film ends, you feel like you have gotten to know the sisters on an intimate level, and can fully relate to their lives.
(A well-crafted film showcasing impressive performances from its leading ladies led by Saoirse Ronan)
Review by John Li