First things first: we’re a little worried about giving you too many spoilers for Greta Gerwig’s (Lady Bird) new feature film of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel Little Women.
And let’s not kid ourselves, it’s pretty high praise when all three reviewers are concerned about spoilers for a story written in the 1860s, which has had dozens of adaptations across the stage, TV, and silver screen since the 1910s! But it’s 2020, and here we are.
Since the story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March is already so beloved, we won’t belabor the plot or speak too much on the timeless themes. Instead, for this newest adaptation, we’re going to offer up six reasons you should be excited to grab the popcorn and visit the March family in Concord, Massachusetts one more time…
1. Watch it for Jo.
Saoirse Ronan’s (Brooklyn) portrayal of Jo includes all the passion and ambition we love her for with a twist of pathos. Jo is vulnerable and uncertain of herself in spite of her boldness, and she’s keenly aware of her flaws. Basically, she’s human, but we love her anyway, and I (Micah) personally loved seeing a heroine onscreen with all of her victories and her failures on display, rather than watching another false ideal.
2. Watch it for Amy.
I (Micah) will readily admit that Amy March was never my favorite. But Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) showed Amy as a strong, savvy business woman, one that I never considered her character to be. To be honest, I always saw Amy as greedy and grasping (sorry, Amy fans!), but in this version I realized what she actually was: a survivor. She sees the world as it is and decides to make the most of it for herself and her family; it isn’t just about never being poor again, it’s about changing fate and taking charge of her life. Basically, Amy is the unsung hero of the March family and I am here for it!
3. Watch it for Laurie.
There have been some impressive Lauries over the years. But Timothée Chalamet (Lady Bird) truly embodies both the spirit and physicality of “the Laurence boy” in a way I (Debbie) have rarely witnessed. He is gangly and awkward; he’s charming and boyish; and his rapport with Jo is just what it ought to be: giddy, brotherly, full of sentiment, and just the right amount of rough-and-tumble. Plus, the movie makes it a point to center Laurie’s wistful longing for the beautiful camaraderie of the March women, rightfully turning on its head the common film trope of women longing after the adventures of men.
4. Watch it for Marmee.
Wouldn’t we all do anything for Marmee? Laura Dern’s (A Marriage Story) Marmee would not only do anything for others, but she inspires those around her to do the same. An active leader of the #Time’sUp movement, Dern has made a habit of straightening other women’s crowns and she brings that same indomitable force to the film as she shows a mother who has her own flaws and struggles but chooses to give more of herself whenever possible. She’s also the political voice of the March family, admitting her shame over her deeply divided nation and reminding the audience that we still have work to do. Simply put, Gerwig’s Marmee offers us more, inviting us to see the complexity and humanity of the character, even as we aspire to ascend to her levels of compassion and sacrifice.
5. Watch it for Louisa May Alcott.
This re-telling is so much sweeter when you know the story of Louisa May Alcott, the book’s author. Louisa’s spirit was much like Jo’s, and the novel is semi-autobiographical. She based the characters on her own family, but she believed that the stories were too ordinary and would not find an audience. To her surprise, when the book hit the shelves, girls were writing to Alcott because they wanted to know more about the sisters. But, to the author’s frustration, they asked all the wrong questions. Alcott wrote in her journal: “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only end and aim of a woman’s life.”
Louisa, who never married in real life, was a firm believer that women have a lot more to offer than just companionship. In fact, some people believe that Alcott’s publisher forced her to marry off Jo March, but that it wasn’t her original intention.
Her views on love and marriage are all over this movie, all the way up to the end, where Gerwig does a fine job of fusing Jo March and Louisa May Alcott, connecting reality with fiction in an ending that left me (Stephanie) thinking about it for days. This was my favorite thing about the whole movie, and what sets it apart the most for me from all the other adaptations.
6. Watch it for Greta Gerwig.
Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this film brilliantly. If you haven’t already, I (Stephanie) encourage you to watch interviews of Gerwig and the cast where they talk about the making of Little Women. You’ll instantly be able to tell how emotionally invested she is in the source material. Greta’s love and admiration for the story and its author shines through on the screen. Her attention to detail and the thought she put into each and every aspect of the film (the sound design, the lighting, the costume design, etc.) make the movie all the more special.
7. Watch it for inspiration and empowerment.
Women are interesting and complex, and our stories are worth telling. Little Women has never failed to prove this. From the moment the novel was first published to now, the story of these four sisters has been treasured by the majority of people who encounter it. Gerwig’s adaptation makes sure to let the women watching know that their narratives, no matter how domestic or ordinary they may seem, are important.
Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth: I (Stephanie) have felt like each of the girls at different points in my life, and I left the movie theatre feeling like all the different ways I’ve seen and thought of life, love, marriage, and the world in general are okay. What’s important is to take ownership of my life and live it the way I know will make me happiest.