Little Women movie

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's 1868 classic is by far the most inventive (constructed out of chronological order, with constant flashbacks and flash forwards); the most meta (with Jo March herself cast as the author of Little Women, and with an audacious twist at the end regarding Professor Bhaer); the most political (directly confronting the restricted roles of women in the late nineteenth century); the most human (all the characters, even the previously too-sainted Marmee, feel real); the least soppy (though the most emotionally affecting -- tears flowed freely); the funniest (viz. Meryl Streep's Aunt March); and, despite the considerable liberties the director takes with the story, the closest to the spirit of the original. 

The acting, particularly by the women, is superb. (The men seem to fade into the background, perhaps appropriately for this story of a family of women. Even the male actors who usually command attention -- James Norton, for instance, who plays Meg's husband John Brooke -- are here not that compelling.) Saoirse Ronan, who plays Jo, comes off as more contemplative and less stereotypically fiery than some previous actors in the role (though she's still delightfully unconventional), but her openness and genuineness anchor the film. She is its heart. We may lose track of exactly when a particular scene may be taking place (is this when Beth first comes down with scarlet fever? or is this when she's succumbing to later complications), but Ronan's Jo grounds us and allows the film's unusual structure to work.

(Florence Pugh steals the show, however, with a truly extraordinary performance; her portrayal of youngest March sister Amy, usually pigeonholed as a pretty but spoiled brat, will forever change the way you think of the character. Pugh's Amy is tough, savvy, forceful, forthright, and brutally honest both with herself and others.) 

As Ronan's Jo grounds the movie, so do the settings, with the entire thing filmed, authentically, in Massachusetts. There's both austerity and sumptuousness, visually, but the overall effect is vibrant and immediate. This is no trapped-in-amber period costume drama; the look of the movie reinforces the freshness and vigor of Gerwig's whole approach.

My advice: go see it! Let me know what you think.

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Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.
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Darren Sextro

You captured perfectly what is so wonderful about this adaptation. I also loved how Gerwig plays with gender roles in the casting and costuming of Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet. And, yes, the deconstruction and then reconstruction of the timeline, for me, helped to bring forward the emotional cores of Alcott’s story. And, frankly, it gave purpose to the’s not just another retelling. A true work of movie art.

Posted : Jan 18, 2020 02:07


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