Little Women (U)Cast: Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern
Author(s): Greta Gerwig
Director: Greta Gerwig
Release Date: 26/12/2019
Running Time: 135mins
Marmee March presides warmly over the family home while her husband is away, bravely fighting in the American Civil War. Her four daughters pursue their dreams: Jo wishes to become a writer, Meg hopes to become a famous actress, Amy yearns to step out of Jo's shadow so that handsome next-door neighbour Laurie might look her way, and Beth loves to play the piano. The siblings' paths diverge courtesy of romantic dalliances and grave sickness.
LondonNet Film Review
Little Women (U)
Louisa May Alcott opens her 1868 novel Little Women with the quarrelsome March sisters – Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth – trading barbs as they contemplate a miserable Christmas without presents or their father. It’s a touching domestic scene, which beautifully distils the siblings’ contrasting personality traits that will contribute to their fluctuating fortunes over the next eight years…
For her handsomely mounted film adaptation, writer-director Greta Gerwig flicks towards the end of the book and opens in autumnal 1868 New York rather than the festive chill of a Massachusetts winter. The temporal shift is deliberate, focusing on aspiring writer Jo (Saoirse Ronan) as she attempts to sell a story to Mr Dashwood (Tracy Letts), publisher and editor of the Weekly Volcano, and is plainly advised: “If the main character’s a girl, make sure she’s married by the end. Or dead.” As guardian of Alcott’s beloved text, Gerwig remains faithful to the original words and abides by literary tropes but she also indulges in post-feminist revisionism to set her Little Women apart from previous incarnations and strike a chord in the MeToo era. She reinvents gruff German professor Friedrich Bhaer as a swooning French scholar played by Louis Garrel as a visually appealing rival to dreamy Timothee Chalamet’s Laurie for Jo’s affections. The fractured chronology isn’t entirely successful. By reframing the death of a pivotal figure, Gerwig dampens the emotional impact and the juxtaposition of scenes eight years apart can be confusing.
Marmee (Laura Dern) presides warmly over the March family home while her husband (Bob Odenkirk) is enlisted in the American Civil War. Her four daughters pursue their dreams: Jo (Ronan) wishes to become a writer, Meg (Emma Watson) hopes to become a famous actress, Amy (Florence Pugh) yearns to step out of Jo’s shadow so that handsome next-door neighbour Laurie (Chalamet) might look her way, and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) loves to play the piano. The siblings’ paths diverge courtesy of romantic dalliances and grave sickness, while clucky Aunt March (Meryl Streep) advises the brood to marry well because, “No one makes their own way, not really, least of all a woman.”
Little Women is distinguished by terrific performances including Ronan as the fiercely independent wordsmith, who is fully aware of the lack of privilege afforded by her sex. “I can’t get over my disappointment in being a girl,” she laments. Dern is a perfectly protective matriarch and Oxford-born actress Pugh elevates petulant, self-absorbed Amy. “People want to be amused, not preached at. Morals don’t sell nowadays,” Mr Dashwood counsels Jo in the opening scene. Gerwig’s splendid film disagrees and sells Alcott’s morality largely word for word through pithy observational humour and boundless affection for the spirited protagonists.
– Jo Planter
London Cinemas Showing Little Women
From: Friday 7th August
To: Thursday 13th August
Sat 17:20; Mon 15:10
From: Friday 14th August
To: Thursday 20th August