Greta Gerwig has followed up her masterful coming-of-age directorial debut Lady Bird
(2017) with an adaptation of the famous 1868 Louisa May Alcott novel Little Women
. The film, which opens in wide release on Christmas Day, has been nominated for two Golden Globes (Best Actress for Saoirse Ronan and Best Original Score for Alexandre Desplat) and is surely among the year’s most buzzed-about Oscar-season contender.
Alcott’s novel of the domestic triumphs and tribulations of four Massachusetts sisters has been adapted before, most successfully in a 1994 screen version starring Winona Ryder, Christian Bale, Susan Sarandon and others. Gerwig’s new version exudes the same warmth as many of its predecessors, which is a tribute to the vitality of its source material, a seminal work of fiction that shed new light on the role of women in society and the psychological role of love in the lives of women.
The specificity of the characters and settings in the book limits radical new interpretations; the chief departure in Gerwig’s script is that she has elected to tell the story non-linearly, in which events seven years apart occur in parallel. This makes for a few narrative bumps at first but leads to dramatic payoffs, and also allows the events of adolescence to be viewed through the lens of adulthood.
Gerwig is owed credit for the remarkable familial chemistry of the cast. Emma Watson, Ronan, Eliza Scanlen and Florence Pugh are incandescent as the March sisters. Their scenes together are a joy to behold. Timothee Chalamet, as wealthy neighbor and pal Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, vibes so well with Ronan that audiences will be dumbstruck at their romantic fate, as in versions past.
Florence Pugh, one of Hollywood's fastest rising stars, imbues Amy March, (easy to write off as the petulant, snobby March sister), with a soul and spirit that she’s never had before.
Though the story plays out in the 1860s, Gerwig’s Little Women
shows us just how universal, how timeless, the happiness and hardships of life really are.
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.