There are two words I would use to describe Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless novel Little Women: wonderfully pleasant. Everything from the script, the acting, the direction, the set design, down to the creative changes in the story helped make for such an enjoyable viewing. This literary classic has been adapted for the screen six times before and Gerwig does a phenomenal job of making this seventh adaptation equal parts fresh and familiar. Simply put, Little Women does a great job of playing into its older elements while also making it accessible to younger audiences who may be less familiar with the original work.
Little Women tells the story of the March family, made up of four sisters: Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth. Set in Massachusetts in the 1860s, the March girls navigate their way through adolescence and the highs and lows that come with growing up. Each sister aspires for something greater than themselves; in specific, protagonist Jo yearns to be a great writer. Chasing their respective dreams, the March sisters must also deal with societal expectations whilst trying to find their place in an ever-complicated world.
Little Women features an all-star cast including Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Emma Watson as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, and Eliza Scanlen as Beth. The supporting cast is rounded out by Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, and Bob Odenkirk. Ronan and Chalamet are exceedingly charming in their roles as Jo and Laurie, and their acting chemistry, which was first showcased in Gerwig’s 2018 debut film Lady Bird, shines through once again in this movie. Out of all the fantastic performances that this cast gives, my favorite would have to be Florence Pugh as Amy. Pugh steals every scene she is in, as her performance is both authentic and entertaining. We feel her vulnerability and empathize with her when she wants us to. Furthermore, she provides so many laughs for us throughout the film’s entirety.
What separates this movie from past film adaptations of Little Women is the story structure. The original book followed the events of the March sisters chronologically over the course of years, while this film jumps back and forth between the past and present to reveal the plot. Gerwig also takes some artistic liberties with the ending of the story, which I happened to both enjoy and appreciate.
In 1868, when Louisa May Alcott wrote her masterpiece Little Women, she did so in a literary climate that was mostly dominated by men. Similarly, Greta Gerwig does the same as she directs this film in a Hollywood where gender inequality still persists. In this sense, the film feels all the more personal to Gerwig and to the movie itself in the landscape it was crafted in. Gerwig had been working on her adapted screenplay for years and it shows in the best way possible, as any viewer can tell so much heart has been put into it. Gerwig’s talent as a director is apparent in Little Women, and the story that resonated with readers all over the world for the past 150 years is once again wonderfully brought to new audiences through her reimagining.
Little Women runs a little over two hours and not a minute of screen time is wasted. I smiled throughout a lot of the film and enjoyed each and every performance. It’s also satisfying to see that it’s already done really well at the box-office throughout its first few weeks while competing with big-budget blockbusters like Star Wars and the sequel to Jumanji. For those tired of action-packed CGI flicks that are constantly being churned out by Hollywood, I would suggest giving this movie a chance, as it provides equal entertainment with a compelling story and great direction. If Little Women is playing in a theater near you, be sure to check it out in time for this upcoming awards season!
Cover Photo: IMDB