Little Women ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Director Greta Gerwig changed one important thing from the novel, something I warmed up to over the course of watching the film: the non-linear narrative.
SPOILERS ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie, maybe it’s best not to keep reading just yet. Go see the movie and come back. It’s highly recommended.
… you’ve been warned SPOILERS …
So, why the non-linear narrative?
“I wanted to ground it [with them] as adults and then go back in time. It’s this sort of iconography of Little Women, the girlhood part. I wanted to have it be something where they were yearning for something that was gone. I feel like as a grown woman I’m always sort of walking with my younger self and answering to her. I felt the same was true of the March sisters.”Greta Gerwig Explains the One Big Change She Made to ‘Little Women’ | Observer
I wondered if this was how the novel was structured and turns out it isn’t. Gerwig’s idea, as disorienting as it is as first, by the end of the movie is magical. I didn’t have any trouble understanding the story and it did something to the movie that made it somehow more interesting to me. Kudos to Gerwig for making this change.
As I mentioned in my review, narrative changes like this are a gamble. Too many flashbacks are usually a problem, but it works here. It really does. The fact that it was all by design just makes this movie all the more interesting.
Jo and the Writer vs. Publisher Substory
One of my favorite substories that runs throughout the movie is Jo using writing as a job to support her family. How she interacts with the old man owner and publishers who seems to genuinely like her work, but want it tightened up. He’ll buy it, but only when edited down.
And when Jo finally submits her novel, she herself doesn’t have that much faith in the quality of the work, citing is “probably not very good” or something to that effect. The publisher agrees until a group of young adults surround him about the manuscript wanting to know what happens next. Then he wants very much to buy the rest of the work
Found this fascinating, because novels aren’t typically written this way. Usually there is a synopsis of what happened sent along with the first few chapters for review. If the editor likes what s/he sees, they request more. Now, it is possible, Jo had an outline that she sent with those first few chapters, but the movie never really tells us.
Behind the scenes stuff, but being a writer it struck me as a bit off. If you’re already a well known, established author like Stephen King this process is somewhat irrelevant and Jo had had success with shorter works, but none that were novel length to that point in the movie.
Kinda nitpicky, I know, but something that I wondered about. Not saying it couldn’t happen, but the fact she could just walk into the publisher’s business and pitch her work in person is also unusual. Perhaps a sign of the times. No writer today strolls into Random House and says, “here’s my book, check it out’.”
Meg is sort of underdeveloped
If we’re being honest, Meg doesn’t have much to do in this movie. She buys expensive fabric to make a dress that her husband has earmarked for a jacket and, while he is disappointed, he seems to realize that, based on his teaching salary, he can’t afford to give her everything she deserves.
Meg is the homemaker in the sisters, sort of just there to remind that this is also a viable path in adulthood for a woman. I don’t know for a fact, but sense in the novel more is done with Meg’s character.
Amy plays second to Jo, and shines
Amy is a great artist and I kept thinking her work would be noticed and she’d have some kind of critical acclaim on her own, but instead she wins the affection of the wealthy suitor who loves her sister, Jo. But as you would expect Jo is more career-minded than Amy, not sure she could settle down like Meg. Will Jo die a spinster? That seems to be a recurring question (curiously, the author Louisa May Alcott never married).
In the end, it would seem that Amy does better focusing on her personal satisfaction over an artistic career, but then viewers are reminded she can have both. Very satisfying arc and maybe the most complete one of all the sisters.
Beth and the piano
Poor Beth, she is a prodigy on the piano, even drawing the interest of a kindly rich man who gifts her one so she can make it sing, but she suffers an illness that ends up binding the family together. I kept wondering about any symbolism around her music, life and death. How one creates music and it can live well beyond the musician. How it can be played for generations and generations and in the end how Jo’s love interest also plays music. There is a clever, perhaps not so subtle tie-in.
How she was maybe the most talented of all sisters must face the harshness of life in the final quarter of the 1800s. Any sort of illness in those days could have tragic results, because medicine was not nearly as advanced.
This is one of my top 10 films seen in 2019. Near The Irishman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Netflix) and Marriage Story ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Netflix), but not ahead of the speed racing Ford v Ferrari ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and eerie Doctor Sleep ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I realize some may challenge that those genre stories are not as great, but to me they are, particularly Doctor Sleep which had an immense sequel challenge to climb and, box office performance aside, prevailed. Ford v Ferrari has the highest overall audience review score at Rotten Tomatoes of any of the movies (98%), while Little Women is at 92% as of this writing. Marriage Story is at 83% and Doctor Sleep is 89%. If RT was the deciding factor, then Ford v Ferrari would earn the checkered flag.
Regardless, how I think it compares to other movies, Little Women is a fantastic movie. One that deserves viewing by moviegoers of all ages. The story is irresistible, the acting is great and the presentation is polished.
Reviews by Others
What do other moviegoers think of Little Women? In the 1,000+ movie-related sources I pull from, there is only one not recommended review below. Pretty impressive and suggests to me, this movie is headed for some awards.
- Assorted Opinions: “It’s rare to be in the cinema and, while watching, realise that you are witnessing a classic. Little Women is that rare film. It is transcendent.”
- Danny O’s Movie Reviews: “Gerwig’s direction is brilliant, and the cinematography really adds to the film. It’s the perfect movie to see around the Holiday season, and I highly recommend it.”
- Darren / The M0vie Blog: “…is a solid piece of work, even if it’s a lot thornier and more complicate than it would like to be.”
- David Ferguson: “Ms. Gerwig (perhaps with a future as one of the greatest filmmakers) displays storytelling and cinematic craftsmanship at the highest level. She bounces between timelines (over at least 7 years) and different sisters’ stories, showing how each is so different … yet all interconnected.”
- Drinks With Films (5/5): “…bring your whole family, and especially the men folk. This is not just a story of domestic struggles. This is a great family film about finding and trusting your voic…and telling your story.”
- Full Circle Cinema (10/10): “I love this movie so much, it hurts that I cannot articulate it any better than that. If I were to try any harder, I would just keep repeating myself till those words seemed alien in my own mouth. Love, love, love, kind, kind, kind, good, good good.”
- GoldDerby/Daniel Montgomery: “Gerwig’s latest directing effort is being described as “deliciously feisty,” “evocative,” “wondrous” and “luminous,” among other effusive adjectives. The filmmaker “captures the vibrant world created by Alcott” and turns it into “a new classic.””
- Gone Elsewhere / Jackrabbit Slim: “So, if you are a man and reluctant to see this because you don’t think it will speak to you, banish those thoughts and go see this film. It’s that good.”
- Grim D. Reaper: “Running the full gambit of emotions while celebrating young women dealing with life, circumstance, and personal decisions from their own point of view, Gerwig’s new adaptation may be the best version of Alcott’s novels as the most relatable take.”
- High Contrast: “…is a little more of a shaky win from the director of Lady Bird, but a win nonetheless. I can’t wait to see what she does next.”
- I Am Your Target Demographic (5/5): “I’m still thinking about this movie and how much it impacted me. I cried out of happiness, I cried out of sadness, I laughed many times, I was completely invested in this film and I want you to feel the same. Head to the theaters now and reward good behavior.”
- Jack Blackwell Film Reviews (5/5): “What a gift, then, that Little Women brings, able to give you all these feelings for two heart-filling hours. It’s a film you’ll love the first time round and long to return to again and again.”
- Jordan Woodson’s Reviews: “…is truly the best adaptation yet with Oscar-worthy writing, directing, acting and so much more. Gerwig is more than likely about to be snubbed of her deserved nominations and it’s going to be crushing to see it happen”
- Just A Little Bit Random: “This is something for people of all ages (well, most ages, maybe not quite the very young), people of all genders, backgrounds, classes, this is a film that almost anyone can find delight in. It’s a pure joy that you can easily escape into and be entertained by.”
- Keith & The Movies (4.5/5): “…a truly great movie filled with an effervescent female spirit that celebrates the is a solid piece of work, even if it’s a lot thornier and more complicate than it would like to be.”
- Laura / DOTT: “It feels rather glib to say, but Little Women shines a bright light on the capabilities, individualities and ambitions of women. It should be something we see casually every day, but for someone reason it’s something we’re still talking about whenever it’s represented onscreen, and while we still must talk about it, we/Gerwig absolutely shall.”
- Martin / The Film Tower: “I have not read Little Women, but just on the merits of the film Greta Gerwig appears done a good service to the book: she has made this story seem new, and these characters seem modern and alive.”
- Matinee Chat with Kathy Kaiser: “Greta Gerwig’s remake of this classic tale is as extraordinary as it is breathtaking, as she channels the sights, sounds and feelings of four young women, and their struggles they face as they come of age.”
- Movie Nation / rogerinorlando (3.5/4): “…the liveliest, loveliest “Little Women” ever, practically a reinvention of “Masterpiece Theatre” fodder into something vital, fresh and new.”
- No More Workhorse: “Much like the readers of Alcott’s book found in 1868, the more romantic ending dangled like a brightly wrapped Christmas present tied up in a neat bow seems infinitely more satisfactory even today. It seems the themes that Alcott dealt with in her novel many years ago are not yet buried in contemporary society.”
- North Shore Movie Reviews (4.5/5): “Greta Gerwig’s new version is an impressive response to the question whether we really needed another one.”
- Old Ain’t Dead: “Gerwig created a powerful nonlinear tale perfect for the modern audience. An old story we all know made fresh and better than before.”
- Poems for Warriors: “The newest adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, “Little Women,” was the best version I have ever seen.”
- Polar Bears Watch TV (Grade: B+): “…is a genuinely lovely, affecting film that exudes such warmth for its characters and their hopes, dreams, and fears. It’s driven both by an understanding of sisterhood and by an understanding of what it means to want something as an individual”
- Rashabh Vashishta: “…is healing and sentimental cinema carried out with grace and sensitivity. The performances are genuinely affecting, and the cinematic realization of the story feels truly moving.”
- Rachel’s Reviews (7/10): “I approached this new version by director Greta Gerwig with a mixture of excitement and fear. Fortunately, for the most part, I enjoyed it and definitely recommend it for families during this Christmas season.”
- Shani Ogilvie/Runpee (Grade: A-): “The movie did an amazing job of showing the emotions of the characters and the interpersonal relationships between them.”
- The Whacha Watcher: “…stands as one of the very best novel to film adaptations I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. In fact, it stands as one of the very best moviegoing experiences I have ever had.”
- The World of Cinema: “Some Little Women purists might not dig the new version because it has been chopped up and tweaked but as someone with no attachment to the material, I’m was totally sold on the retelling and the performances.”
- Vague Visages: “Gerwig’s version surprisingly, refreshingly considers events from the wiser lens of adulthood instead of focusing on and following the coming-of-age pathway through adolescence.”
- Yash Bansal Reviews (4/5): “The movie didn’t always grip me in its first half, but by the time it ended, it carried a lot of emotional weight and won me over. Overall, the movie is skillfully directed, superbly acted and a real joy to watch.”
Not Recommended (or on the fence)
- GirlsOnFilm.net: “The problem is, that doesn’t really work. At times I found myself a little lost at to where we were in the story, and I’ve been reading the book since the age of 8. I’m not sure how anyone going in to the film cold would be able to keep up.”
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