Little Women - Movie Review

Little Women

Little Women - Movie Review

Is there anything new that can and should be said in another movie adaptation of the beloved classic, Little Women? Most people weren’t sure, especially since the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder seemed to offer the last word for so long.

And yet, Greta Gerwig decided to give it a go, and she proved that there were, indeed, new and important things to say regarding Louisa May Alcott’s foundational work.

The latest adaptation of the novel stars Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chamalet, and Laura Dern, amongst many other major names. Gerwig adapted the script herself, drawing from different sources, including snippets from the lesser-known follow-up Little Men, and events from Louisa May Alcott’s real life, blurring the lines between adaptation and biography.

It is a way of making clear the long-held suspicions by fans of the books and historians that Jo March is essentially a version of Alcott herself. Another tack the film takes is the continuous shift in timeline, jumping from past and present consistently throughout the film, while also keeping the dialogue running at a clipped pace as though it were a piece of theatre.

Both innovations are interesting, but they can also be rather distracting and perhaps not very “welcoming” for an audience not as familiar with the books as the many die-hard fans out there.

The performances are excellent, and Ronan, in particular, takes the role of the restless Jo/Louisa and grants her this overwhelming passion that is truly stunning to see onscreen.

The direction is also very strong, and thankfully, this is maybe the first script that gives Amy’s character some precious screen time, allowing her to be more than just the novel’s resident “spoiled brat.” In fact, many of the novel’s most beautiful and illuminating scenes feature Amy, but you wouldn’t know that from past adaptations. Here, Gerwig allows her struggles to be taken seriously, which is a refreshing change of pace.

However, there is one flaw in this film, it is remarkably self-conscious regarding the book and Louisa May Alcott’s legacy. Lovers of the series and the author have long known how refreshingly modern she was, and that she was far ahead of her time.

For some reason, the film has a need to relentlessly defend her legacy, which in turn feels like an attempt to over-explain the necessity for its own existence. It’s an odd thing to watch, but regardless, this version of Little Women is deserving of the many accolades it has received. 

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Updated 3 years ago