Little Women (2019)
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen
By Tim Basaraba
With the success of Lady Bird (2017), I assume director Greta Gerwig had a lot of leeway when choosing her next project, and a bit more budget to work with too. Perhaps not surprisingly, she leveraged the success of her last female-driven film to go big, choosing a new adaptation of arguably the pinnacle of female-centered stories, Little Women, for her next project.
I haven’t seen any of the previous film adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel, and I haven’t read the book. So, blissfully ignorant, I sat down and watched this masterpiece unveil.
The nonlinear storytelling is smooth and discernible. At no point was I wondering “Wait! What’s going on?” This can only occur when top notch actors convince us of where they are in their arc.
Little Women has this type of high caliber acting throughout, and none more so than Florence Pugh’s role as Amy March. Last year was a banner one for Pugh, superbly portraying three totally different roles with precision and grace: as the aforementioned Amy, WWE star Paige in Fighting with My Family and as Dani in Midsommar.
Playing Amy March, the “spunky sister,” must be a dream come true for actresses. Evoking the deep seated tensions of sisterhood seems to be a thrilling challenge. Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson also shine as the older sisters who take opposite paths, and although screen time for Eliza Scanlen as Beth is limited, she conveys the inner sadness and triumph of the character beautifully.
The actors’ performances are not the only stellar part of the film. The set design, wardrobe, and cinematography transport us to Civil War era America in a unique way, and they do it with visions of lush beauty and hope, rather than the dusty doom of other films set in the same era.
Viewing this film without the book’s story ingrained in my mind left my heartstrings susceptible to the tragedy that befalls the family. I can’t compare this to any previous adaptations, but I assume this is the best. Why? Because these are my Little Women and they brought me to tears.
If Lady Bird was an A, then so is Gerwig’s Little Women.