I’ve never been a big fan of costume dramas, so I was very apprehensive, if not outright dismissive of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women adaptation. Left at a loose end this weekend, I found myself sitting in a screening of the new adaptation. And readers? I couldn’t have been more wrong to avoid seeing this delightful film.
I had no knowledge of the source text other than Joey Tribbiani had to put the book in the fridge. I know I’m in the minority when it comes to this, so I won’t rehash the plot in detail. Where Gerwig’s adaptation differs from previous is her choice to change up the narrative structure. Gerwig keeps the storyline but intertwines the March sister’s adult lives with their younger years, creating new insights and parallels in to their actions and the consequences of their sometimes reckless choices. By doing this, the audience are given new insight and depth to the characters that are so well known.
The casting is what truly shines in this adaptation. Gerwig has managed to hit lightning and get some of the hottest young talents in the same space, and pair them up with ever dependable talent like Laura Dern and Meryl Streep.
The 3 main leads are Jo and Amy March, along with love interest Laurie. Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Timothee Chalamet are forces to be reckoned with, and despite spending large parts of the film apart from each other, the chemistry between the 3 is electric. Ronan and Pugh each bring a strength and sensitivity to two sisters who could not be more different, yet create fully rounded characters. This is particularly impressive in the case of Pugh’s Amy. Amy March has for years been the poster child for selfish brat, but with Pugh’s strong performance in Gerwig’s modern direction, the pair create an Amy that young girls might not be ashamed to identify with.
Saoirse Ronan heads up the film as heroine Jo, determined, headstrong and driven to be a woman for herself. Ronan sparks in every scene she shares with Chalamet’s Laurie, but is also able to add a soft tenderness to the scenes with her sisters, especially her relationship with sister Beth. It’s the quiet scenes with Eliza Scanlen’s Beth that allow Ronan to show Jo’s delicate side and prove once again she truly is one of the greatest acting talents of the 21st century.
The entire ensemble cast play their parts with an ease that could make you believe they were truly family. It’s hard to believe this is only Gerwig’s second feature, as she handles the multiple tones with ease and grace. Her love for the source text is clear to see, but her eye is even better, highlighting the modernity of the story and how it reflects our current times.
The beautiful scenery, locations and costumes should also be mentioned, but if like me you tend to turn away from stories involving women in frilly dresses, don’t let them hold you back. Gerwig’s Little Women is a story of fiercely driven women, and feels more modern and relevant to women today than many other films released this century.