It seems one thing Hollywood never tires of is to re-make the tomes we consider classic literature. Another trend they seem fond of is to modernize the ideals without actually modernizing the time frame. The latest to receive this treatment is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (2019).
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The faces change, but we all know the timeless story that follows the four tight-knit but very different March sisters living in Massachusetts during the dark times of the Civil War. Eldest Meg (Emma Watson) takes her role seriously as she strives to remind her sisters of their manners, even as she longs for the pretty things she can never have; the fiery Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is the determined sister who plans to be remembered through her intellect and the stories she scribbles; Beth (Eliza Scanlen) has no dreams, and is quite happy with her piano, and the nearness of her sisters; then there’s the spoiled youngest, Amy (Florence Pugh), the girl who dreams of being a great painter, and if she can’t she’ll never paint again.
Into their lives walks the three men who transfixed by their infectious personalities, watch them from afar, hoping to make an impact in their lives. Their gentlemanly neighbor Mr. Lawrence (Chris Cooper) takes an interest in the quiet Beth, who reminds him of the daughter he lost many years ago; his grandson Teddy Lawrence (Timothée Chalamet) is immediately struck by the force that is Jo; and his bookish tutor, Mr. Brooke (James Norton) finds his own head turned by one of these March sisters.
Little Women (2019) Film Review
Like I said, this story isn’t new to cinema, and we’ve seen it dozens of times before. Nonetheless, this doesn’t lessen the enthusiasm. It’s a favorite, and for me, one that’s beloved even if I only know it through cinematic pursuits. Written and directed by a woman (Greta Gerwig), this one has been hyped for quite some time now. The problem is, it’s one of those films that, unfortunately, doesn’t have the impact I wished it too.
Gerwig uses the text in unique ways. She restructures how the story unfolds so that it’s no longer linear, something that’s a tiny bit jarring if you go in not knowing this. From a creative standpoint, I understand this and admire its ambitions. Creatively, it’s wonderful to see something we know well to tell its story in unique ways through new methods. But for this film, it also leaves its viewer with something of a disconnect.
The way the film is structured is a present vs past imagery. So that we begin in Jo’s present timeline, and then throughout two-some hours, we flip-flop between this and her life while living with her family. Turns out, this actually works fine until the final five (or thereabouts) minutes when everything comes to its close. The way the production is edited leaves something to be desired. I cannot say much because I don’t wish to spoil anything, but how this ends makes the audience question whether or not we’re seeing reality or a kind of portrait of the novel Jo pours herself into. This also glosses over one of the prettiest lines in literature, and leaves the romantic part of the story feeling cold.
Don’t misunderstand, I know this story is more than a romance, in fact, the primary is not a romance. But still, there is something gorgeous about how everything comes together in a version like the 1994 adaptation. Beyond my complaints, I cannot argue the fact that as a production, this is gorgeous. The locations, and scenery will take your breath away in moments although, the “hurried” moments of some of the previously important scenes may take you out of the moment a time or two. There’s plenty of raw emotion, both good and bad which makes the acting more real.
The cast is also brilliant. I like that its comprised, more or less, of newcomers, and cannot deny how fun it is to see James Norton (Grantchester, War & Peace) in this. The girls are all lovely and turn in grand performances. It’s interesting to see Florence’s portrayal of Amy, and I think Gerwig gives her character more importance here which allows her to perhaps be the most likable Amy that I’ve ever met. Meryl Streep and Laura Dern co-star.
In the end, can I claim this as a new favorite version of the story? Unfortunately, no. Will I watch this again? Of course; and it’s entirely possible my “first impressions” of this will undergo a 180 switch. For now, the 90s version is still my favorite, although this one may have taken the place of the more recent BBC miniseries.
Despite my reservations, I’m glad to have seen this ‘new generation’ adaptation. It’s a lovely picture to watch come to life, and though it’s not always upbeat, it leaves off in bright sunshine.
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Have you seen Little Women (2019)? If so, what are YOUR thoughts? did you enjoy it? Dislike it… or fall somewhere in-between? Share what you did vs didn’t like below.Is ‘Little Women’ (2019) Better than the Fan Favorites? Asking the question and pondering Greta Gerwig's version. #PeriodDrama #LittleWomen #Romance Click To Tweet
Content: there’s some minor innuendo, and thematic elements, but nothing worth mentioning. The film is PG.
Photos: Columbia Pictures