Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Little Women - Review

For over 150 years now, the words of Louisa May Alcott have maintained a place in literary history. Since the classic novel was published in 1868, its had its fair share of adaptations, both traditional and vastly different, so it’s not easy to justify a new version in 2019. However, writer and director Greta Gerwig doesn’t try and justify her reasons, choosing to tell the story we all know in a slightly different way and letting the themes shine through.

Following the lives of four sisters, Amy (Florence Pugh), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlon) and Meg (Emma Watson), as they come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. Though all very different from each other, the March sisters stand by each other through difficult and changing times.

In a stroke of genius, Greta Gerwig nixes the reading of Little Women in a standard cover-to-cover structure like other films have and approaches it in a far more creative fashion. The timeline is fractured, jumping back and forth between the joys of childhood and the troubles of adulthood, juxtaposing key scenes. Structurally, this version of Little Women works like no other, bringing the idea of Jo March as a writer to the forefront, and thus the women behind her character as well, both past and present.

Once glance at the cast list should tell you this is not a movie to take lightly. It’s a stacked cast of talented young actors and a few veterans for support. Everyone deserves their fair share of praise, but two performances wind up standing above the rest.
First, Gerwig presents audiences with possibly the most well-rounded Amy audience’s have received in a film with the casting of Florence Pugh. From spoiled brat of their youth to the more practical, sensible woman as they age, Pugh has the most difficult transformation and she absolutely sells it with ease. It certainly helps that the rivalry with Jo is given room to grow and eventually reveal itself as a bond like none of the others have.

Then there’s Saoirse Ronan, an unconventional choice for Jo March on the surface, but one that reveals itself to be brilliant as the film progresses. Ronan’s talent is unmistakable, and her knack for showcasing multiple emotions in a moment comes in handy for the complex character she plays. The story of Jo March is a thinly veiled version of Alcott herself, and in a way, Gerwig as well.

As expected with a story set in 1800’s New England, Little Women is also a gorgeous creation of a story book setting. The production and costume design  is incredibly detailed, from the warmth of the March home to the mixture of colors and patterns in every dress, scarf, and hat. Throw that in with the perfect score from Alexandre Desplat and Little Women is a gorgeously wrapped gift just in time for the holidays.

Little Women may be the newest edition of a tale many have read, heard, or seen by now, but Gerwig offers so much more to dissect with her infusion of a 21st-century perspective. The performances are all astounding, with Pugh and Ronan standing out the most, and the look of the film is to die for. This all essentially adds up to a magical transportation to the world of New England from the book written nearly 150 years ago.

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