Based on Louisa Mary Alcott’s classic novel, “Little Women” tells the story of the March sisters and their family. Saoirse Ronan stars in the lead role as Jo March, an independent woman that makes a living by writing books. Through her writings, Jo reflects on her life as a member of the March family, romantic relationships and harsh rivalry with her sister Amy (Florence Pugh). As Jo recounts her life experiences, she soon discovers that getting her book published isn’t going to be as easy as she thought.
It’s a classic coming-of-age story that is expertly crafted by writer/director Greta Gerwig. Ever since she burst onto the scene with “Lady Bird” two years ago, Gerwig has proven to be a fantastic female filmmaker. Her directorial debut “Lady Bird” was lauded for its strong female protagonist and authentic depiction of adolescence. With “Little Women”, however, Gerwig has crafted her first period piece to date. It’s the director’s first stab at creating a period piece set in the 1800’s. It is not easy to recreate an olden time period, but Gerwig pulls it off seamlessly. From breathtakingly beautiful sets to dazzling costumes, the film features lavish production values that emulate the time period. Through phenomenal production design, Gerwig transports viewers into the lives of the March sisters in the 1800’s. Gerwig excels at recreating the time period, and her latest film is worth watching on the big-screen for this reason alone.
If gorgeous production values do not attract you to the theater, though, there are still plenty of other reasons to see “Little Women”. The film is extremely well-written, and offers a fresh spin on a timeless story. Greta Gerwig’s screenplay is superb, and arguably the main highlight of the movie. Filled with larger-than-life characters, witty dialogue and clever storytelling, the script elevates the movie to another level. Gerwig’s greatest strength as a screenwriter is her willingness to take risks with the source material. Instead of telling the story in usual order of events, Gerwig takes a non-linear storytelling approach. Throughout the film, she flips back and forth between the past and present lives of the March sisters. It’s a risky technique to employ in a book adaptation, but it pays off tremendously. It gives the film a sense of urgency and momentum that is missing from previous adaptations. Through non-linear storytelling, “Little Women” keeps viewers invested in the lives of the March sisters.
In terms of acting, the entire cast is at the top of its game. In the year’s most award-worthy ensemble, every star gets the chance to shine and leave a lasting impression.
Saoirse Ronan delivers her finest performance to date as Jo March. Ronan has spent most of her career playing rebellious teenagers with sassy attitudes such as Lady Bird. With “Little Women”, however, she takes on the most mature role of her career thus far. It is not easy to play a beloved literary character, but Ronan pulls it off effortlessly. With captivating expressions, she captures the strong will, quick temper and free-spirited nature of Jo. Ronan particularly shines in the scenes in which she interacts with her co-stars, creating a genuine and believable sisterly dynamic. It’s a phenomenal performance from one of the most seasoned actresses working today.
The supporting cast is spectacular and also worthy of recognition. Florence Pugh is fantastic and brings shades of humanity to the most detestable character in the book, Amy. Timothée Chalamet is terrific and sweeps your heart away as the love-struck Laurie. And finally, it is hard to not mention Meryl Streep. As Aunt March, the legendary actress brings hilarious comical relief and persona to the movie.
Although “Little Women” is undeniably unforgettable, ultimately it is not a flawless adaptation. At nearly two and a half hours, it is slightly long and suffers from a lengthy running-time. Assisted by Alexandre Desplat’s whimsical score, Greta Gerwig keeps the film moving at a brisk pace during the first hour. However, once the film enters its sentimental finale, it starts to lose steam and test the viewer’s patience. Moreover, the film features sudden time-jumps that may confuse non-readers. Gerwig’s decision to tell the story in a non-linear fashion is bold and innovative, but it doesn’t entirely work. Viewers that haven’t read the book may find it hard to follow the narrative that jumps back and forth in time. Due to its non-linear narrative, “Little Women” is one of those films that may not appeal to mainstream audiences.
Nevertheless, fans of the beloved book will definitely enjoy “Little Women” and so will movie-goers seeking heartwarming entertainment this awards season. An amazing adaptation of the classic novel, it proves that some stories are worth retelling on the big-screen. At a time when female-led films are rarely recognized in Hollywood, it’s a little reminder that the stories of women deserve to be seen and heard.