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REVIEW: Greta Gerwig's 'Little Women' (2019)

Updated: May 30, 2020

I take back everything that I said in my last review, about film adaptations never living up to the books. Greta Gerwig’s (Lady Bird) adaptation of Little Women (2019) felt like it was made from my own mind and my own heart. I cried from approximately ten minutes into the film right up until now when writing my review.

Based off the novel by Louisa May Alcott, Gerwig had big boots to fill in both her writing and directing. However, Gerwig did not only fill these boots - they fit like a glove. Her directorial choice to tell the story as a mosaic between past and present was a bold move. The chronology threw me off at first, starting at a mid-point with Jo being in New York. However, the film soon got into the swing of telling the story. The shifting between the past and the present allows Gerwig to play into comedic moments, and really increase the tragic moments with parallels between scenes. The use of the publishers to drive the plot was fantastic, with Mr Dashwood, played by Tracy Letts (Lady Bird), asking “so, who does she marry?” just when the audience is doing the same. These moments resulted in a screen full of people laughing. More technically, the cinematography was mesmerising, displaying the beauty of the setting, as well as the characters. The lighting matched the mood of each scene, and signified the difference between the past and the present. The camera made sure that we didn’t miss a thing, making all reactions and glancing looks contribute to the plot.

In her writing, Gerwig proves that the novel is truly feminist, and really plays to these moments while staying true to character. All four of the March girls are different, with their own aspirations and own personality traits. The casting choices for all characters is mind-blowingly perfect. We all have our favourite adaptations of Jo March, ranging from Winona Ryder to June Allyson. Yet Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, Lovely Bones) is the perfect Jo – smart, ambitious spunky, and a free-spirit. Meg, played by Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast), and Beth, played by Eliza Scanlen (Sharp Objects) are textbook perfect, acting as foils for the outgoing Jo, yet showing valid ambitions for both too. However, an honourable mention should go to the role of Amy, played by Florence Pugh (Midsommar). Pugh plays Amy with careful precision between being childish and mature, argumentative and gentle, showing a true coming-of-age transformation. As the story bounces between past and future, Pugh especially plays the differences between childish and mature Amy, showing her transformation into a young woman who is a perfect match for Laurie, which I would argue has never been truly mastered by any other adaptation.

Speaking of Laurie, Timothée Chalamet (Lady Bird) shone in this film. He was the perfect Laurie (have I said perfect too many times yet?). He was loving, beautiful, a watcher, youthful, cheeky, and totally and utterly in love with all the March girls as a collective – the way it is supposed to be. I, obviously, cried my eyes out at his proposal, despite knowing that everything would turn out fine. He is a poetic character who pulls at the heartstrings and has on-screen chemistry with absolutely everyone that he encounters – a true Laurie. We also should not forget the comic genius of Meryl Streep (Devil Wears Prada) as Aunt March. Streep brought so much comedy to the role, presenting a different kind of strong, independent woman than Jo, being loveable for that reason.

Overall, Little Women is a must-see for both fans of the classic and newcomers alike. This is not a ‘girly’ film, this is the story of domestic tragedy, unconditional love, and how strong these ‘little women’ really are.

5/5 stars from me!

Here’s a few of my favourite quotes/scenes to look out for:

  • ‘Jo: I don’t believe I will ever marry. I’m happy as I am, and love my liberty too well to be in any hurry to give it up’

  • ‘Jo: Women have minds and souls as well as hearts, ambition and talent as well as beauty and I’m sick of being told that love is all a woman is fit for. But…I am so lonely’

  • ‘Amy: Well, I believe we have some power over who we love, it isn’t something that just happens to a person. Laurie: I think the poets might disagree’

Love, Kate x

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