Greta Gerwig Brings A Modern Touch To “Little Women”


On the surface, a remake of Little Women seems unnecessary, and arguably even a waste of Greta Gerwig’s filmmaking talents. Sure, this story is hardly told as often as others, but the most recent version is still well regarded, so many were hoping Gerwig would tackle something more original. However, her take on Little Women is more than different enough to make its own case for existence. With a modern touch, some strong acting, and a wit that shines through, this new take on the old story is very solid. Is it as good as the internet is telling you? No, but it’s also nothing to be avoided, like other parts of the internet are stating. As always, the discourse is terrible, when in truth, this is just a charming movie.

The film is a new take on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott. As always, it follows four sisters who come of age in the aftermath of the Civil War, but this time around, there’s much more to it than that. Here, Gerwig mixes the story with Alcott’s writings overall, blending the two and making protagonist Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) even more of a stand in for the author. As she reflects back and forth on her fictional life, that provides the spine of this story. Jo remains the focus, with Amy March (Florence Pugh) getting most of the secondary focus, though Meg (Emma Watson) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) aren’t ignored either. In particular, the relationships that Amy and Jo have with their neighbor Theodore ‘Laurie’ Laurence (Timothée Chalamet) feels the most traditional, while Jo’s passion for writing and independent streak have the most modern touch. Gerwig writes and directs the adaptation, with the ensemble cast also including Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Louis Garrel, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Meryl Streep, and more. Yorick Le Saux contributes the cinematography, while the score is by Alexandre Desplat.

Greta Gerwig makes this a lively and lovely adaptation of the classic novel. Her script jumps around a lot and leans on knowledge of the source material, but the modern touch shines through. Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh are great, while Timothée Chalamet is the source of the funniest moment. It’s a very solid ensemble overall, one that is enjoying what Gerwig brings to the table here. Gerwig’s direction exudes a confidence that smooths over the jumpy nature of the writing here. It’s possible that newcomers to the story may well be confused by her style of telling the tale. That’s the main thing holding this back, since as new a take as it is, it does require at least some familiarity with the source material.

Little Women is going to be an interesting X factor for Academy members. It can just as easily become an Oscar juggernaut as it can be shut out at the Academy Awards. Sony has a full throated campaign going though, so efforts in Best Picture, Best Director (for Gerwig), Best Actress (for Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (for Pugh), Best Adapted Screenplay (also for Gerwig), Best Production Design, and Best Original Score may well pay off. The less voters think of it as a remake and the more they look at it as Gerwig’s follow up to the awards darling Lady Bird, the better the movie might end up faring.

Today, audiences can celebrate Christmas with a whole host of cinematic options. One family friendly pick may very well be Little Women. Fans of the novel, the previous film incarnations, and Gerwig’s work to date should be in the bag for this one. There’s enough to like here in order to not just recommend, but to proclaim as a worthy new addition to the Little Women adaptation club. Give it a look and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Little Women, in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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