Louisa May Alcott would have been delighted to see Greta Gerwig’s take on the book.
The Golden Globes were just announced, and the biggest snub was that no female directors were nominated. Not Olivia Wilde for “Booksmart,” not Lorene Scafaria for “Hustlers,” and not even Greta Gerwig for “Little Women.”
There’s nothing I can do about that, except brand the new version of Louisa May Alcott’s novel as one of 2019’s Top 10 Best. We were given a few versions with Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Winona Ryder, among others; and joining the legends are Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep.
As a matter of fact, despite its 19th century setting, I felt like I was watching a 1940s movie, because of its atmosphere and acting. The young women here all have fun and share their own opinions on life-marriage, independence, wealth, and ambitions. They’re poetic, and Gerwig writes them with such grace and integrity, that Alcott would have been proud of her.
Set in the 1860s, we meet the March sisters-Josephine (Ronan), Meg (Watson), Amy (Pugh), and Beth (Scanlen)-their loving mother Marmee (Dern), and their pompous Aunt March (Streep), who all have their own opinions of marriage, love, independence, wealth, and ambitions. The story is set 7 year apart when we the sisters developing their relationships, awaiting for their father (Bob Odenkirk) to return home from the Civil War, and eventually going their separate ways.
Most of the story hinges on Josephine, who is a writer struggling to sell her work, because of the sexist stereotype that all women must be married by the end of the story. At least that’s what her publisher (Tracy Letts) lets on. Meg is set to marry John Brooke (James Norton), the tutor for a rude and lazy, but charming and rich young man named Laurie (Timothee Chalamet). Amy is the most misunderstood of the girls, but is declared the only sane girl in the family by Aunt March. And Beth is excellent at the piano, but eventually suffers from scarlet fever.
Each of the girls comes across Laurie, who lives with his kinder grandfather (Chris Cooper), and they all have mixed reactions towards him based on his charisma and behavior. At one point, he proposes to Josephine, who rejects him, because she believes they would be eventually miserable.
Gerwig’s directorial debut was “LadyBird,” and it’s refreshing to her guide Ronan, Chalemet, and Letts once again. But that’s not the reason why I loved her take on “Little Women.” The reason is how she brings out the best of the literature characters for a modern era where women demand their innocence and strong will.
There’s a sense of love and strength inside the main heroine, who refuses marriage and wants to lead her own life, no matter the prejudice against women. Ronan continues to delight us in this particular role.
Watson, Pugh, and Scanlen all reveal themselves with grace and passion. Chalamet has proven himself to be a fine young man, ever since he took major roles in “Ladybird,” “Beautiful Boy,” and “Call Me By Your Name,” because of how he portrays a chick magnet with attitude and style. And Dern and Streep both deliver the goods in their respective ways (Dern being the loving one, and Streep being the spoiled snob).
The costumes and hairstyles are also immaculate, resonating with the time period. All these young ladies look ravishing in their dresses, despite Laurie saying he hates feathers, and all of them are beautiful on the inside and out. I love these women for being women, and not promotional sex slaves like “The Other Woman.”
Given the circumstances, I just can’t wait to see Gerwig’s next movie.