Review: Little Women (2019)

Director(s)Greta Gerwig
Principal CastSaoirse Ronan as Jo March
Florence Pugh as Amy March
Emma Watson as Meg March
Eliza Scanlen as Beth March
Laura Dern as Marmee March
Timothee Chalamet as Laurie
Release Date2019
Running Time 135 minutes

That settles that. I’m watching Ladybird as soon as I can. After having experienced the feel-good delight that is Little Women, I’m more than excited to watch more Gerwig and am super excited for whatever she does next. I came into this movie as someone who has not read the original book or seen any other adaptation (I want to read the book now and then watch the movie again to see how it fared as an adaptation) . I only decided to see it because it was nominated for best picture and I’m glad I did.

The story is a coming-of-age story that follows the women of the March family, four daughters and their mother, Marmee, who are forced to maintain the household as their father is out fighting in the Civil War. Every single daughter is driven and has their own set of passions. Meg, the eldest, has acting aspirations. Jo, the second oldest, wants to be a author and writes stories to get money. Amy, next in line, is more spoiled and wants to be an artist. Beth, the youngest, loves music and wants to be happy with her family. The movie cuts between this past and the present (set a few years later) seamlessly, juxtaposing each of the girls idealistic younger selves with their more worn and mature selves. It creates an expectation because you know what’s going to come, but also a sense of mystery because you want to see how we go from point A to B.

This sense of mystery keeps the movie fresh from a storytelling perspective and happens seamlessly in the background, without you realizing it. I knew that we were going back and forth, but I was never focused on it. My brain just automatically accepted it. Editing and scene placement is on point and it creates a piece that seems to reveal information at precisely the right time. There are meta-narrative moments that are placed perfectly in the third act and allow for a lot of interesting interpretative leeway (I’m assuming on purpose) that I can’t help but admire, especially after reading about the movie and the stories original writer, Louisa May Alcott. Every thread comes together at precisely the right time and it makes the whole experience an emotionally satisfying roller-coaster. I would go from feeling sad, to feeling hopeful , to laughing, to tearing up, to feeling inspired, to some combination of any of these, and all the feelings in between and I never once felt any kind of tonal whiplash. The only issue I felt was ,because there’s no clear passage of time, certain character decisions in the latter portions of the movie feel rushed given the the gravity of what they are. It’s a fleeting issue that didn’t bother me too much in the moment, but after finishing the movie I did feel like some of the later portions of the movie feel less earned.

Acting, characterization, and dialogue are almost always impeccable. Every conversation feels real because each actor/actress nails their motivations from their cadence to their body language. It’s hard to praise any performance in particular because all of them, especially each of the titular “Little Women” completely feels in the moment. Saying that, I have to be honest on how impressed I was with Florence Pugh. I already thought she was amazing in Midsommar being able to portray grief and anguish in an very visceral way. After this, I’m in awe of her acting range. She gives Amy a real brattiness and sense of indulgence in the earlier timeline and projects a lot of maturity and pragmatism in the latter timeline. It’s a surprising blend that had me rooting for her character, in spite of the kind of horrendous things her character does.

The movie is packed to the brim with tons of relatable themes. Despite having a particularly feminist flair, the movie is for everyone. It’s not trying to exclude or ostracize. It never comes off as preachy. The ways that it critiques gender roles, women’s treatment in society, and the functions of marriage are all relevant and presented fairly and naturally. I thought the discourse on marriage as a communion predicated on love versus social ladder was made even more interesting by placing it in front of a discussion of a woman’s agency. If that’s not your groove, the movie tackles common issues we’ve all gone through- being nervous of pursuing our dreams, thinking we’re not good enough, balancing dreams with financial concerns, and trying to find love in a world that often times alienates us. There’s something in here for everyone.

Report Card

TLDRLittle Women is the feel good movie of 2019. The March family’s coming-of-age story has something for everyone and will have you laughing,crying,smirking, and glued to the screen the whole time. A fun time for the whole family with a ton of messages to boot.
Grade A+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

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