After all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holidays, I was able to catch a matinee screening of Little Women yesterday. I'm familiar with the story and had seen the 1994 version. Of course I've been keeping up on what critics were saying leading up to its release, so I knew going in it probably wasn't going to be a big pile of crap. That can also be problematic, as it opens the possibility of expectations being too high and ultimately being left disappointed. I definitely was not.
We all pretty much know the story to Louisa May Alcott's beloved book by this point: the four March sisters come of age in post-Civil War Massachusetts. In director Greta Gerwig's new adaptation, the cast is led by Saoirse Ronan as the formidable protagonist, Jo. She is joined by Emma Watson (Meg), Eliza Scanlen (Beth), and Florence Pugh (Amy). Unlike in other adaptations, Gerwig (who also wrote the screenplay) weaves scenes from present and past to show the ladies' journeys, motivations, and relationships. I've seen a couple reviews describe the going back and forth as disjointed, but I completely disagree. This is of course a credit to Gerwig, as I found the scenes flowed very seamlessly between character and settings.
The performances were absolutely outstanding. Ronan certainly stands out, but Pugh was probably my favorite among the sisters. She had the biggest transformation to make from young to older Amy, and she did a great job showing that growth in the spunky character. Timothée Chalamet was delightful as Laurie, and did a great job particularly with Ronan in the pair's sort of buddy-to-love interest dynamic. Meryl was a gem as usual, and while not a large role, Aunt March always stood out in her scenes. She cracked me up with her cantankerous machinations. Chris Cooper had a few touching moments as Laurie's grandfather as well.
The cinematography and set designs were spectacular. I commented after the movie at how beautiful every single shot was, from intimate interior scenes to grand landscape views of New England's gorgeous foliage in autumn. But the best part about the movie was probably how Gerwig managed to make it seem so contemporary. She had such a nuanced approach at showing how the women in the film lacked their own agency to follow the lives they wished--how utterly dependent they had to be on men to sustain themselves, and how marriage was just as much an economic proposition as it was one of love. I think I posted the below video before, but it's worth showing again, as it sums up what I'm attempting to describe. It's also in the movie because Gerwig got the idea for it from Meryl.
Little Women is in theaters nationwide. Go see it!