This week I attended an advance screening of the new Little Women film. Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this 2019 adaption of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel (warning, if you haven’t read the book or seen one of the previous Little Women films, SPOILERS). What sets Gerwig’s movie apart from others is viewers no longer follow the story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy in chronological order. Instead we see chapters intertwined in a new outline with flashbacks. This storytelling method works and the acting is spot-on for the entire cast.
Powerful Themes in Little Women
This film beautifully captures Marmee’s complete acceptance of her girls. The March sisters have extremely different personalities. Marmee tailors her parenting so that each always feels secure and loved. Even with old Aunt March offering tsk-tsk judgments on the sidelines, Marmee does not demand her girls ignore their true nature. As a result each girl flourishes. For Marmee, the most important thing is for her girls to have strong morals and character that act as their compass throughout life.
There have been countless debates on whether or not Amy and Laurie should end up together. This film does not shy away from the magnetic relationship that is Jo and Laurie, but it also does a great job of helping the viewer understand why he comes to love Amy romantically. The script and Florence Pugh, who plays Amy, brought a depth to the role I had not seen before.
Speaking of scenes, the SCENE where Jo breaks Laurie’s heart is still there in all it’s gut-wrenching glory, as it must be. Most of us at one time or another has been Jo, Laurie or both. This exchange is imperative, because it shows Jo embracing her intuition. Although she loves Laurie, she cannot marry him. Even if it costs her economic stability and one of the people she adores most in the world. Although Little Women was written in 1868, it is a life lesson that still resonates today.
Once again I cried in a theater due to Beth’s arch. In Gerwig’s version there’s a beautiful scene on the seashore between Beth and Jo. The younger sister, frightened by so many things in her life, calmly explains she is going to die. “It’s like the tide, Jo, when it turns, it goes slowly, but it can’t be stopped.” This is the most heart aching lesson in the book and the film…the loveliest of souls can be taken too early by death and we are powerless to stop it. Beth, in her gentle dignified way, accepts this. Also worth noting is how she inspires others to be the best versions of themselves, even after she is gone. This is a gift often unrecognized.
Similar to other film versions, Meg often struggles with her family being financially poorer than others in the community. Even when she finds true love and marries John Brooke, Meg still feels unsatisfied due to her lack of material wealth. However, she grows to understand and cherish how rich she truly is because of her sisters, husband, children and parents. This will not be lost on 2019 viewers who live in a world where social media can easily trigger envy. By the end of the movie Meg is very much at peace with her life.
Throughout the movie we witness Jo’s attempt to make a living as a writer. Gerwig weaves the challenges Jo faces as a woman attempting to publish her work in the 1800s. Feeling downtrodden Jo muses that perhaps the stories she wants to write (those not “salacious” and “salty”) are tales people do not want to read. Amy replies the stories close to Jo’s heart need to be told and deserve to be published. With her screenplay Gerwig successfully brings elements of Alcott’s life to Jo.
Little Women 2019 is a beautifully layered movie to see over the holidays. Don’t just watch it with the girls in your life, take the boys too.
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Screenplay by: Greta Gerwig
Based on the Novel by: Louisa May Alcott
Produced by: Amy Pascal, Denise Di Novi, Robin Swicord
Executive Producers: Adam Merims, Evelyn O’Neill, Rachel O’Connor, Arnon Milkman
Cast: Saoirse Ronan (Jo March)
Emma Watson (Meg March)
Florence Pugh (Amy March)
Eliza Scanlen (Beth March)
Laura Dern (Marmee March)
Timothée Chalamet (Theodore “Laurie” Laurence)
Tracy Letts (Mr. Dashwood)
Bob Odenkirk (Father March)
James Norton ( John Brooke)
Louis Garrel (Friedrich Bhaer)
Chris Cooper (Mr. Laurence)
Meryl Streep (Aunt March)
Top image provided by Sony Pictures Entertainment.