Little Women (2019)

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Photo from Reason.com

Little Women centers on the March sisters – Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) as they transition from their idyllic childhood into the hardships of adulthood.

Director Greta Gerwig does it again. I was excited for this film because of her and the amazing cast she put together, but I did not expect to react so strongly to the film. I have never seen any of the adaptations of Little Women nor have I finished the novel. I read a few chapters of it before getting distracted by life, so I am one of the few people who do not know this story.

Jo is the protagonist, and we mostly follow her throughout the film, but each sister has their own personality. Jo is headstrong, Amy is bratty, Beth is quiet, and Meg is mature. When all of these sisters are together though, they are loud and infectious with their love for each other.

Ever since Lady Bird, Soairse Ronan has become one of my favorite actresses and she is perfect as Jo. She brings so much passion and spirit to the role and Gerwig brings the novel’s author, Louisa May Alcott, into the character as well. As a woman in the Civil War period, Jo is expected to marry, but has no desire to do so. There is no one Jo loves more than her sisters, but she still struggles to fit in with society with her unladylike nature.

The other breakout performance was Florence Pugh’s Amy. Amy as a child is annoying, petty, and bratty. But as an adult, she shows much growth and learns from her Aunt March (Meryl Streep) that she is the one who must do what is necessary – marry rich – so that her family can survive. She knows a woman’s place at this time and accepts her role as “an ornament to society.” She is not totally happy with this role, but she knows she is doing what is best for herself.

Really no one turns in a bad performance with supporting cast of Timothee Chalamet, Emma Watson, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep. Eliza Scanlen as Beth was also a stand out to me, she did not have too much to do, but she is the heart of the film. Her relationship with Chris Cooper’s character was also very touching.

Gerwig weaves childhood and adulthood together in a non-linear timeline, which makes more of the story points have an emotional punch. I seen from a few other reviews that the editing was difficult to keep track of since the actresses play both their younger and older selves, but I didn’t think so since there are visual cues to distinguish the two timelines. She also ends the film expertly, leaving Jo’s ending a bit ambiguous and letting the audience choose for themselves which ending they want for Jo.

Overall, I encourage everyone to check out this film, because even though it is a period piece, its themes are still resonant today. I found Gerwig’s second directorial debut to be just as brilliant as the first, and I cannot wait to see what she does next.

I give Little Women an A.

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