Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is one of the few novels written by a female author, featuring female protagonists that has stood the test of time.
Off the top of one’s head, similar novels such as Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and L.M Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” spring to mind, and while all three of these books have been reworked for both stage and screen in many different ways, Alcott’s “Little Women” is perhaps the story that is most loved and remembered for its on screen adaptations.
Published in the 1860’s against the background of civil war and the abolition of slavery, it’s a time when women are told to marry well and obey their husbands. Despite this Alcott presents us with a novel that works hard to deliver a truth about women, that they too, like men, can hope and dream and feel and know their own minds. This is perhaps why many directors have tried to capture this ageless tale. Greta Gerwig is the latest to try her hand.
Gerwig’s adaptation has been incredibly well received. The movie, released in December 2019, has received a plethora of award nominations. Most notably, Saoirse Ronan is nominated for her fourth Oscar for her performance as Jo March and Florence Pugh is also nominated for her portrayal of Amy March. Arguably the film should have been nominated for more, the opinion of many is that Gerwig was unfairly snubbed for best director.
Ronan delivers a strong performance as Jo March. She is fiercely independent and Ronan delivers an inspired performance. She works hard to ensure that Jo is a well rounded character and doesn’t shy away from scenes that might show Jo to be in a less favourable light.
The best part about this whole film however is Florence Pugh’s performance as the youngest March sister, Amy. Pugh delivers a much more likeable character than the 1994 adaptation and it was clear that Gerwig had worked hard to ensure that Amy didn’t appear as the spoilt younger sister. Pugh lands an emotional delivery and made us question pre-existing opinions that we might have of Amy March.
Timotheé Chalamet makes a good Laurie. When he is on screen alongside Ronan and Pugh he allows their character’s to breathe. He brings out both the best and worst parts of them and he should be commended for this. This is after all a story about little women, not a man trying to find his place. Chalamet is aware of this and he gives an educated performance.
What Gerwig did best however was showing that women can be whatever they like once they are happy. She did this well by highlighting the fact that despite Meg, played by Emma Watson, having a love for acting, she also would love to be a mother and it was okay for her to choose this. Marriage is not conceding to the societal norms that “Little Women” challenges, but instead shows that women making their own decisions is empowering.
Image Credit: Sony Pictures