Since the publication of both of its volumes in 1868 and 1869, “Little Women” has seen six plays, three musicals for the stage, a musical for television, two radio plays, six films (including silent films) as well as a made for TV movie, two anime shows, five mini-series, two regular series, and an opera. Despite this, Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of the novel still manages to bring a new and original take to the classic novel, and is without a doubt, one of the greatest adaptations of the novel to date.
“Little Women,” based on the classic novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott, follows the March sisters as they all progress toward womanhood.
Whereas most novel adaptations would start at the beginning, or at least very close to it, “Little Women” starts right in the middle, with the rest of the film switching from past to present, similar to the structure of films such as “The Godfather: Part II.” This is an insanely bold choice on Gerwig’s part, and it really pays off. Not only does it clear up some portions of the plot, it gives more of a sense of who the March sisters are, and how they feel. When the movie starts, Emma Watson’s Meg March is seen struggling to pay for the fabric for a dress. The audience, as well as Meg, is left spending the rest of the film remembering when they were young, and everything just felt so much more carefree. It’s very rare in a film how something as basic as the structure of the story can leave this big of a long-lasting emotional impact.
As well as the structure, the film has a seemingly perfect cast. I mean when I say that no performance in this film was lackluster in any way, shape, or form. Saroise Ronan gives an intense emotionally rich performance as Jo March that feels, in equal parts, personal and powerful. Florence Pugh, hot off the tails of quite possibly one of the best performances of the decade in “Midsommar,” shows the gradual maturity of Amy March with seemingly unmatchable ease. Meryl Streep, of course, gives a flawlessly hilarious performance as Aunt March. Timothée Chalamet plays the very rich, very charming, and very dashing Theodore “Laurie” Lawrence. Despite his generally rude, womanizing, and overall trash nature, he makes the audience fall in love with his undeniable charm whenever he’s on screen. Lest I forget, Laura Dern! The always amazing Laura Dern! The consistently criminally-underrated Laura Dern! Her performance as Marmee March feels genuinely sincere, and overall just feels like a warm hug.
Despite “Little Women” being quite definitely one of the most period-piece-est period piece stories of all time, this film still feels incredibly personal and relatable. Everything works in tandem to create this feeling. From the amazing script by Greta Gerwig, to the wonderful performances, and, of course, the magnificent score by Alexandre Desplat. If this film does not win any Oscars, I will most definitely scold each and every single member of the academy one-by-one, because this is an absolutely near-perfect film. Also, any man who refuses to see this, I urge them to put their overwhelming sense of “masculinity” at home, and watch this film. A good film is a good film, no matter who watches it.