By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
What can I say? Louisa May Alcott’s novel and all of the previous cinematic adaptations have somehow managed to escape me. Though the book was on my recommended reading lists in school, I never once read it, nor have I ever watched a single movie version of the book. This is rather unfortunate, now that I have very much enjoyed this latest adaptation by Greta Gerwig. Now, I cannot honestly say that Gerwig has made an excellent adaptation, but can say the talented filmmaker has made an extraordinary movie. With outstanding writing and direction, along with stellar performances by the cast, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is an instant classic.
In 1860s New England, the March family, headed by the strong and charismatic Marmee (Laura Dern), continue to live their lives as best as they can while their patriarch (Bob Odenkirk) fights in the Civil War. The headstrong and driven Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is a talented writer and aspires to one day pursue a career as a either a novelist or a journalist. Her older sister Meg (Emma Watson) dreams of acting one day, but reality dictates otherwise. Younger sister Amy (Florence Pugh) dreams of becoming a painter, but also longs for romance. Youngest sister Beth (Eliza Scanlen) is a gifted pianist, but has often struggled with her health. Each sister has wonderful talent and vibrant personality to match, and as Jo pursues a career in writing, she feels her life story (so far) is one worth telling.
Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, Little Women offers a classic tale, told from a modern woman’s perspective. This may initially sound inappropriate, but given the strength and determination of the characters, it works oh so well. Gerwig obviously has so much love for the material and its characters, that nothing ever seems out of place. It is a lovely celebration of strong women in a time when women had few opportunities for real happiness.
The movie features an amazing cast with Ronan being the perfect stand-out. As Jo, Saoirse Ronan exudes the perfect defiance and strength her character should. Jo, who has her own doubts and fears, still serves as a voice of strength and will for her sisters. Florence Pugh also gives a stand-out performance as sister Amy, a girl who has a penchant for the dramatic, but also a passion for love and romance. Emma Watson also performs well as eldest sister Meg, a young woman who has dreams and desires, but is more grounded in reality. The movie can also boast outstanding work by Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, and Tracy Letts.
So, even though I have not read the book or seen any other version of the story, I am confident in stating that Greta Gerwig has made an outstanding movie with Little Women. It is a movie that made me regret ignoring any previous iteration of the story. What I mean by that is that it is such a wonderful story to tell. And I feel that Greta Gerwig’s film finally sold me on this fact.