Movie Review: ‘Little Women’ Is A Timeless Classic!

Greta Gerwig made quite an impression with her writing and directorial debut, ‘Lady Bird’. She clearly had a command of her narrative and a voice that felt authentic to the world we live in today. Who would have thought that she could bring that exact sensibility to a story more than a hundred years in the making and that has been told on film around ten times already. I certainly can’t think of anyone who seemed to be screaming for a new adaptation of ‘Little Women’, but the way that Gerwig makes the tale feel both modern and timeless is a breath of fresh air. In fact, this is my favorite adaptation yet.

The combination of Saoirse Ronan’s strong and vulnerable performance, Gerwig’s assured direction, Nick Huoy’s tight editing, and Alexandre Desplat’s wonderful score, are probably what puts it over the top for me, but it really is everything. The costumes, sets, and even the particular parts of the novel that are rewritten come off as picture perfect. Which helps the whole thing to feel timeless and therefore something modern audiences, who don’t necessarily enjoy costume dramas, can wrap their hearts around.

It also helps that the casting is impeccable across the board. This is especially the case for the March family. Emma Watson is so heartwarming as Meg. Eliza Scanlan is kind and reserved, yet steals your heart as Beth. Laura Dern provides ample empathy as Marmee March. Florence Pugh is like a young Kate Winslet (which is the highest praise I can give an actress) as Amy. And Ronan as Amy March further proves here that she can disappear into just about any role you throw at her. When you add Timothee Chalamet’s sober and often delightful performance to the mix, you would think that another performance wouldn’t have room to register. Yet, Chris Cooper delivers some of his best work in years as Mr. Laurence. All that without even mentioning the incomparable Meryl Streep.

If you’ve never experienced the tale before, it is a juxtaposition of both the end of childhood and the heart of young womanhood. The story bounces back and forth between the final years the girls are all growing up together and the year that the world changed for the whole family. Amy’s quest to balance being a writer and falling in love is certainly the heart of the story, but every young woman’s tale is given weight. Truly though, it is the way the story chooses to dwell on so much of the happiness and kindness shared between the young girls, that makes all the emotional bits so resonant. Honestly, I geared up from happiness just about as much as I did from sadness in this film.

Which is exactly what Gerwig wants you to do. She is clearly more in love with Mary Alcott’s classic novel than any director before her, and that love is infectious. If you don’t get swept away by this luminous and disarming picture, then you just might not have a heart. This is easily one of the finest films of the year.

Nathan Ligon
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