December 16, 2019

CINEMA | Greta Gerwig Rewrites the Delightful 'Little Women'

"Life is too short to be angry with one's sisters."
Florence Pugh Greta Gerwig | Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

Actor/filmmaker Greta Gerwig cleverly tackles American author Louisa May Alcott's nineteenth-century New England set literary classic Little Women for her second solo directorial effort. This modern, non-chronological adaptation of the Civil War-era novel further proves Gerwig's talent and breadth for handling character and story on a grander, more ambitious storytelling scale.

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen as the sisters March, Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth, this Little Women plays with the well-known tale altering the dual timeline to get a better sense of the sisters as teens and young adult women and flesh of their elegant stories of growth and maturation. Ronan is perfectly suited as the free-spirited, feminist Jo sworn against conventional romance or marriage in her pursuit of writing while Pugh is sensational as her sisterly rival, the usually hated Amy, full of fiery passion.

Balancing the talented young cast are all-star veterans Laura Dern as the matriarch Marmie and Meryl Streep as Aunt March perfectly complementing as well as rounding out the other fine performances. Current heartthrob Timothée Chalamet injects a minimal sense of masculine energy as the simmering, long-suffering love interest to Jo in the dreamy Laurie. It's truly remarkable how Gerwig has assembled and balanced his cast in telling the sprawling old tale in new, contemporary ways.

Little Women really express its feminist themes of independence and desire all while remaining period-appropriate in addition to exploring the writing process. Its frank dissection of marriage and romance as economic arrangements feels refreshing in the boldness of how its told on screen. The focus remains squarely on the women and their internal struggles or motivations of domestic ambition.

Gerwig's delightful, elliptically told version of Little Women mixes its period coming-of-age themes with contemporary values for a fitting adaptation worthy of its updating. Her dynamic cast and lived-in storytelling choices enhance and advance Alcott's feminist ideas while expressing the plight of young women at the time. For the usual period romance costume drama, it refuses to be stodgy or old-fashioned in its retelling of a classic tale.


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