REVIEW: ‘Little Women’ is positively wonderful

There’s already been six adaptations of “Little Women,” so why not add another one to the list?

Actually making a new one was a good choice, because it turns out to be one of the greater book adaptations and one of 2019’s finest films.

Like other adaptations, “Little Women” follows the stories of Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen). They live in Massachusetts during the Civil War with their mother Margaret (Laura Dern) while their father is off fighting for the Union Army.

The picture explores their lives as teenagers living together as well as their time as young adults, where they’re off on their own adventures. For example, Jo, is working to become a steady author, while Amy is an aspiring painter in Europe.

Unlike some of the other versions, this “Little Women” picture tells its story in non-linear fashion. The film will show scenes from a post-war period where Jo is working in New York, then after some time it will bounce back to a moment when she was living at home with her three sisters.

Framing a story like this doesn’t work for every type of movie, but in a way, this drama is a character study. As such, these moments that show the sisters at an earlier point in their lives allows an audience to gain a better understanding in the directions they’ve taken in life and why they became who they are.

It creates a sort of tug-of-war between the optimism of youth and the cynicism of adulthood that gives the movie weight.

In this format, the movie is still able to feature an over-arching narrative, while also setting itself apart creatively from some of its predecessors. From a story perspective, the only real issue that comes up is a couple of the characters don’t have enough screentime to react to a development in the third act.

Courtesy Columbia Pictures and Regency.

Director Greta Gerwig, who also wrote the script for this production, did outstanding work in crafting a truly rich picture. The foundation, of course, was already there, since it’s based on a book. However, Gerwig does wonderful life bringing the feature to life on the big screen.

The screenplay feels so charged with emotion and charm that every relationship and point of personal growth can touch one’s heart. Captivating and endearing, the picture is ripe with feeling.

Making a lot of this work is the superb acting from much of the cast. The absolute standout, and definitely deserving of an Academy Award nomination, is Ronan, who’s amazing as Jo. The character is headstrong and exudes a confidence at taking on the world. At the same time, she very much has fears and she must also navigate several relationships.

Ronan is phenomenal at portraying these aspects of Jo, bringing the character to life in such an authentic way. She’s absolutely convincing, especially during the picture’s heavier moments.

Florence Pugh also does fantastic work, as she plays the sister who becomes somewhat of a rival to Jo. Pugh very well expresses how her character, at times, feels like she’s in her sister’s shadow.

The rest of the cast is nicely rounded out, too, with solid performances from Timothee Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern and Emma Watson. It’s a top tier ensemble.

“Little Women” is a fantastic experience with a wealth of passion. The timeless story and characters are done justice on the screen and brought to life in significant ways. The 2019 adaptation is inspired and is another great entry in Gerwig’s filmography. 4.85 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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