When I was a kid, I never went anywhere without a book. I mean, technically I still don’t because I’ve always got my Kindle in my bag, but as a kid I was actually pulling out those books and reading them everywhere. I can’t even put a number on how many chapters and pages and such I read. So of course, I got made fun of for it. We’d go to the Library every week, and I’d be exchanging one stack of books for another. Maybe one other kid would exchange one book they’d been carrying around for two months. There was only a small selection of children’s novels we could choose from. The largest book on the shelf (by a lot) was Little Women. “Oh you should read that one!” the kids would say to make fun of me. I don’t know why it was funny, but I guess they just thought I couldn’t do it, or something. So I did. I checked it out, read it, returned it soon after, and absolutely loved it. A year or two later, there was a program implemented where you’d take a test after reading a book and earn points for prizes. Guess what book was worth the most points? Yup, read it again, earned 36 points (as opposed to the 2 or 3 pointers that most others tackled). In junior high, the program came back, but counted towards your grade. Uh huh, another 36 points for me. I recently found it was free on Kindle so I’ve been rereading it for the first time in maybe 20 years. Still love it.
I actually was a tad apprehensive about this adaptation. It gets done so often ( wasn’t there a recent one with Maya Hawke?) Also, the ’94 Winona Ryder version is absolutely perfect. What could we possibly add to it? An A+ cast, maybe? But when you have such a strong list of names (Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Meryl freaking Streep) there’s no room to be wowed. You know it’s gonna be amazing, and anything slightly below that insanely high bar is a disappointment. Turns out there is a bit of room to shake things up and give us a new take, but more on that in a second.
First of all, a word about the screening I went to. It was my last day back home in Texas. I have a Stardust friend in the general area who drove down to watch it with me. We chose the “afternoon tea” screening, which was the cutest thing. Three different servings of tea were given at key points in the film (supposedly key points, IDK that they really lined up) and there were traditional tea time snacks. Soda bread with fancy butter, cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches, strawberry cake and ice cream. Seriously, so cute. Anyways, on with the movie.
In case you’re not familiar with Little Women, it follows the four March sisters in Civil War era New England. We spend a year with the teenage girls as their father is off fighting the war, then we jump ahead a bit and see them beginning their lives as adults. Eldest Meg (Emma Watson) dreams of love and a little family. Youngest Amy (Florence Pugh) wishes to join high society. Next youngest Beth (Eliza Scanlon) is a quiet thing with a passion for music. And second eldest Jo (Saoirse Ronan), is our protagonist. An absolute tomboy who shrugs off the rules and dreams of being a writer.
The film was absolutely delightful. The first thing that stood out to me was that writer director Greta Gerwig took a nonlinear approach to the storytelling. I really liked it. Even in rereading the novel now, it feels very loosely tied together and we move from episode to episode. The way Gerwig wove bits of each period in the girls’ lives together made it feel much more coherent. I also appreciated that there were scenes that didn’t make the cut in ’94. Meg buying the expensive fabric, Beth playing piano for Mr Lawrence, more showcases for characters other than Jo (I think ’94 gave a lot of time to her storyline with Frederich). I loved rediscovering these scenes on screen, especially since they were so fresh from reading the book.
The cast of course was up to the task. Even if the characters only age a few years, you could always tell from how the women portrayed themselves where we were in the story. Espeically Florence Pugh. Now I’m still not sure that I buy that she was 12 years old (which is where Amy starts) but it was always absolutely clear if we were dealing with preteen Amy or young woman of society Amy based on how she carried herself.
The whole film had this feeling of warm and cozy chaos. It felt like you were looking in on a real family full of love and happiness. It was simply a delightful afternoon, sipping my tea, and spending time with the March sisters.
Little Women – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/