Little Women (2019): Review
I wish I could have done my 2019 in Film podcast later, because if so, I could have talked about Greta Gerwig’s fabulous new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women. Seriously, people, this is probably one of the best movies of the year. As for whether or not it’s the best adaptation, I cannot really say seeing as I have never actually read the book, unfortunately. In fact, full disclosure, I only read the SparkNotes summary of the novel so I would have some background knowledge going into this. And after having seen the film, I think I may have to go and read the novel because I was absolutely enchanted by this film.
The main reason I completely adore this movie is not only because of its feminist leanings but because of how it is able to portray nostalgia, and how it is somewhat destroyed by the harsh realities of life. Screenwriter/director Greta Gerwig – late of 2017’s very good Lady Bird – and her DP Yorick Le Saux have elected to go for a nonlinear style in terms of plot progression, electing to shoot the scenes where all the March women – sisters Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Amy (Florence Pugh), Beth (Eliza Scanlen), Meg (Emma Watson), and their mother (Laura Dern – along with childhood friend Laurie (Timothee Chalamet)experience a wistful 19th-century experience in Connecticut with warm, almost sepia colors while the modern day scenes are shot and color corrected in a depressingly grey color palette. Even Alexandre Desplat’s musical score helps to illustrate such a theme, with a livelier musical palette during the flashback and a more subtle, sparse score for the scenes that take place in the modern day.
Across the board, the acting is stellar. Saoirse Ronan is headstrong as the tomboyish Jo, Florence Pugh is appropriately airheaded as Amy, Emma Watson continues to demonstrate her acting chops as the would-be socialite Meg, and Eliza Scanlen is subtle as the quiet Beth. Laura Dern is warm and loving as Marmee, Meryl Streep is hilariously haughty as the girls’ snobby, well-to-do aunt, and Timothee Chalamet gives Laurie deep gravitas and also great comedic timing.
And in terms of the depiction of nostalgia…well, it just put me in a great mood. Whenever I am nostalgic about my past, this is almost exactly how I imagine it. Bright, fanciful, and almost completely divorced from the stark realities of the world. And every time it cuts back to the modern day scenes, it just as jarring as when I am jolted out of my whimsical memories and brought back to reality.
So, bottom line: great film. Not much more needs to be said. Just get out and see it, then wait in anticipation for what Greta Gerwig and all of these young actresses have up their sleeves next.