Little Women

Date: 26/05/2020 Times: 7:30 pm - 9:45 pm

The Guardian places this film at no 4 on their 50 best films of 2019 and it achieves a 95% critics’ rating and a 92% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. How then was there no Best Film nomination in either the Golden Globes or the BAFTAs? It was not until the Oscar nominations were published that there was a nomination in this category. It won a BAFTA and an Oscar but this must feel like a pat on the head for the ladies. There has been much criticism of the omissions and BAFTA, which only introduced new diversity standards last year, has undertaken a review to see why this happened. Louisa May Alcott’s books are well loved by generations of girls and it is a Hollywood favourite, having been made six times. Writer-director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird which we showed a few years ago) has crafted a Little Women that draws on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott, and unfolds as the author’s alter ego, Jo March, reflects back and forth on her fictional life. In Gerwig’s take, the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on her own terms — is both timeless and timely. Portraying Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth March, the film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, with Timothée Chalamet as their neighbor Laurie, Laura Dern as Marmee, and Meryl Streep as Aunt March. 

A great deal of the movie’s brilliance springs from its perfect casting. If Ronan’s Jo is extraordinary, it should be noted that Pugh’s Amy is equally revelatory, a reimagining of one of literature’s all-time-greatest brats that makes her not just sympathetic, but appealing. Boy-crazy, smart-mouthed, and wild, her ardor for the male sex cools and curdles with experience into world-weariness, a pragmatism that sees love and cash as interchangeable. ‘Don’t sit there and tell me that marriage isn’t an economic proposition’, she tells Laurie, angrily, Pugh’s baby face flickering with grief and fury. Beth, the tragic sister with a penchant for piano-playing, is afforded actual life and liveliness before her death by the relative newcomer Eliza Scanlen; Emma Watson, rounding up the girl-quartet, plays Emma Watson, under the adopted alias of ‘Meg’. (There can be no more thankless March sister to play than the one whose whole thing is niceness, motherliness, and contentedness to play the wife.) Timothy Chalamet is perfect for the part of Laurie; He is the film’s great beauty, and the camera loves him as if it were being wielded by an adolescent girl.

What is most interesting about Gerwig’s Little Women is not necessarily its structural ingenuity, but its emotional intelligence: It recognizes marriage circa 1860 as an institution that does not necessarily work in tandem with true love. Meg marries happily but poorly and is shown to suffer for it; Amy will not want for anything. Who is the bigger fool? It may be Meg, since although money cannot buy you love, it can buy nearly everything else one might need to lead an easy life. Greta Gerwig’s take on Louisa May Alcott’s novel is intelligent and fleet, refreshing if not radical, and as organic in its feminist convictions as it is in its depiction of close-knit sororal love.

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Little Women

Year: 2019

Country: USA

Cert: U

Duration: 135 mins

Dir: Greta Gerwig

A 'heartfelt and uplifting modern classic'

Venue: William Loveless Hall