Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Directed by: #GretaGerwig
Adapted for screen by: #GretaGerwig
Little Women Movie Review
Greta Gerwig’s new adaptation of Little Women is a fitting, whilst thought-provoking, end to this tumultuous and transformative decade.
This new take on Lousia May Alcott’s original 1868 novel has been adapted and brought to life with equal measures of vibrancy and modernity. The story still rightfully clings to its central arc of what it can mean to be a woman, but Gerwig explores this in a way that remains current, complex and comedic. It is seemingly innocent and not so, all at once.
Set in Alcott’s hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, the film has an authentic feel whilst still adopting modernity. The glorious scenic colours as one season folds into another and another make for beautiful viewing as the camera follows the lives of the March family and those that live and work around them. The landscape is reinvented for twenty-first-century eyes, as we are shown another side to the small American town that conveys domesticity in a hardworking community on the outskirts of war.
Jo is as likeable as ever, with Saoirse Ronan using the protagonist’s relatability as her biggest strength. It is far more evident in Gerwig’s adaptation that she and Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) are completely unsuited to each other romantically, as he does not challenge her like Friedrich (Louis Garrel) does. Her relationships with her sisters are explored differently too; she does not idolise older sister Meg (Emma Watson), almost resenting her domesticity, her tenderness with Beth (Eliza Scanlen) perhaps indicates that she has the best understanding with her and her dislike of Amy (Florence Pugh) flounders when she eventually sees how similar they truly are in adulthood.
This film is a play on narrative, as Gerwig jumbles up each scene of the original storyline, making the story feel more contemporary and accessible to a twenty-first-century audience. This reinvention of Little Women leaves audiences feeling as though they have watched an entirely new story and in many ways they have. Jo March tackles the commercial pressure to marry off her female protagonist more vocally in this film, arguing as to why women must be dependent on male advantage. This being an incredibly important contemporary discussion point, it was a huge take-away from the viewing experience,
Also a jumble was dialogue, which was delivered all at once by the sisters to create a chaotic and comedic effect. The stichomythic intention of Gerwig’s writing provided a fresh insight into the March family dynamic, whilst delivery from Pugh and Scanlen in particular provided previously unseen humour in characters Amy and Beth. These women are hilarious and enjoy themselves as children and continue to thrive in their creative passions as adults, even when circumstance intrudes.
Gerwig has crafted her writing to spark a more empathetic insight for audiences. Each character is different to what is expected of them, another measure of modern filmmaking. Amy, who was previously bratty and entitled, is understood here. Her inner mentality is tapped into and audiences see a girl frightened of being left behind in the pressure to marry rich to financially support her family. Likewise, dull and dutiful Meg still wants domesticity with her husband, but is revealed to be problematic in wanting to fit in with the other women her age and craves commercial value. Gerwig’s multi-dimensional characters permit the audience member to decide what the story is for themselves, based on what they envision within each character.
Little Women has always shown its followers the trials and anxieties of being a woman, which is why this 2019 adaptation is more so relevant at the end of this decade. At a time where what it means to be a woman is continuously shifting, Gerwig’s film is perfectly timed. Showcased is the importance of telling female-led stories by women about women and for women and as we approach 2020, Jo’s story will hopefully motivate more women to write their own experiences.