Little Women – The Best of Seven Prior Versions

 

Greta Gerwig goes from strength to strength. Her prior film “Lady Bird” met with understandable kudos, and now she offers a Christmas gift with her reworking of Luisa May Alcott’s classic book. Although set during the Civil War, the themes presented echo for us today.

The idea of marrying for love or money has been explored myriad times, but here Gerwig (director and writer, based on the Alcott novel) puts the focus on women’s independence and the ageless struggle to find a balance.

In the lead role of Jo March, Saoirse Ronan is fast becoming Gerwig’s alter ego. Ronan is assured in her performance. We see her early pitching “a friend’s” story to a taciturn editor, played perfectly by Tracy Letts, the best (only?) actor ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. It is a wonderful mirror-like scene as he offers the budding writer advice to improve her stories. He was worked with Gerwig before, and their fluidity on screen is evident.

The other three March sisters are given space to develop their characters. Emma Watson is especially effective as Meg, and Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen do well as younger sisters Amy and Beth. Weaving through their lives is Laurie, played by Timothée Chalamet (who is also becoming a Gerwig regular). The arc of his character development is intriguing.

The cast also includes several older and genuine stars: Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk (whose first appearance caused a startle of recognition for many), the always reliable Chris Cooper (almost unrecognizable) and the perennially remarkable Meryl Streep.

The New England and French settings are portrayed in superb detail (although I would have liked a few dollars spent on special effects to show the characters’ breath in the many outdoor winter scenes).

Kudos to Alexandre Desplat for his resplendent melodic score.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the film is its fluid jump cuts in time; credit therefore to editor Nick Houy.

This is one of the rare films that gets better and better as it unspools. Not to be missed.

 

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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