By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –
Greta Gerwig follows up her 2017 debut Lady Bird with an adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott classic Little Women. It’s the timeless story of four sisters and their mother in the 1860s as they navigate growing up and early adulthood. Laura Dern is Marmee, Timothy Chalamet is Laurie, Eliza Scanlen is Beth, Emma Watson is Meg, Florence Pugh is Amy, and Saoirse Ronan is Jo. Greta Gerwig writes and directs her sophomore effort like a seasoned vet.
Last year I had the unfortunate luck of reviewing Little Women. It was a modern interpretation of the classic novel and it was not good. It was dull, featured poor editing, and Jo came off as a witch with a B instead of a strong independent woman which is what makes Jo such a timeless character that many women relate too. So, forgive me if I compare the two films, but it is only because that one was terrible and this one is exquisite.
Gerwig is an absolute natural as a writer and director. Easily one of the most exciting filmmakers working today, and I cannot wait to see what she does next. She puts a modern feminist take on the story and makes it feel even more relevant today; impressive for a story that is 151 years old. Gerwig, instead of placing the story in modern times, keeps it in the era it was written. She instead accentuates the differences of marriage for a man and a woman in those times (perfectly summed up by the brilliant Florence Pugh in a scene). It never becomes preachy or heavy-handed, instead being stated almost matter of factly for everyone to realize that some of the issues are still issues today.
Gerwig also fleshes out Amy March, the most despised or disliked of the sisters, because she burns Jo’s book and marries Laurie. Instead, we get to spend more time with Amy who is smarter than many people realize, absorbing the world around her. She is still immature, but she is much more complex. Gerwig also fleshes out the story of Amy and Laurie in Paris and how their marriage comes about. In the remake last year it just happens; again no one understands Amy and she comes off as vengeful still trying to outdo Jo. In this one, Amy has always loved Laurie, but when he confesses, she first says no because she doesn’t want to be someone’s second choice, when Laurie has always been her first. Getting to watch that relationship blossom, plus her understanding of how a woman doesn’t get to marry for love in this time, but it’s a business transaction for them, makes Amy possibly the sister that everyone will identify with after this film.
The other reason Amy is a more empathetic character in this film is the brilliant performance of Florence Pugh. I’ve watched her three motion pictures this year and she is a tremendous actress. She steals every scene she is in, and as much as Gerwig’s writing and direction do for Amy, she still wouldn’t be the standout if it weren’t for Florence. Can we just give her the Oscar please? If she doesn’t win it will be a gaffe remembered for a longtime. If she isn’t even nominated it’ll be a travesty.
Eliza as Beth is excellent as the sister everyone loves and is the most caring sister. Emma as Meg is equally as great, showing that even though Meg wanted to get married, marriage isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. It’s hard work, but Meg never regrets getting married. Laura Dern maybe does more complex work in this film than Marriage Story. Chalamet is also great as Laurie; we get to see his pain of being rejected by Jo and he gives Laurie so much life, he’s not a dull dishtowel. Lastly, Saoirse Ronan is brilliant as Jo. Jo never comes off as bitchy or rude, she feels like a real woman who is just independent. It’s 1 million times better than last year’s portrayal and goes to show why Saoirse could be looking at her fourth Oscar nomination.
A few quick things; I love Alexandre Desplat’s score. No shocker he delivers a brilliant score to match the film. The costumes and set design are gorgeous, it’s just beautiful to look at. Finally, the editing is perfect, going from present day to past with certain destinations being the bridge between the scenes.
Greta Gerwig has followed up Lady Bird with one of the most exquisite films of 2019. Everything clicks in this film, and it will make you cry. Not only was I moved by this film, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
Little Women (2019) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: every time someone calls Laurie “Teddy”
Do a Shot: every time someone plays the Piano.
Take a Drink: every time Jo is writing.
Take a Drink: every time Amy is painting.
Take a Drink: for every mention of Father.