‘Little Women’ 2020: a true masterpiece

Reviews

Louisa May Alcott’s novel, “Little Women,” full of themes of love, friendship, and family, was published over a century ago in 1868, and throughout the years since there have been countless attempts to create a movie based on the story. However, a vast majority of these renditions, such as the 2018 and 1933 versions, fell flat until Christmas of 2019, when the latest interpretation of “Little Women” was released to the general public.

Throughout the movie, writer and director Greta Gerwig presents a masterpiece based on the original book that brings laughter and tears to the audience. Overall, the film was a pleasure to watch, with skillful portrayals of characters such as Jo, Meg, and Beth, along with a storyline that follows closely to the initial plot in the novel.  

At the very beginning of the movie, the audience is introduced to the protagonist, Jo March, a wild, young writer played by Saoirse Ronan. In the book, Jo is a unique character since she does not fit the stereotypes of her time period, making it remarkably challenging for an actress to perform her part. In past renditions of “Little Women,” like the 2018 remake,  Jo was not portrayed with the correct personality, causing the whole film to be ruined because she is a protagonist. However, in the latest edition of “Little Women,” Jo was brought to life with nearly the exact personality she possessed in the book. Jo is a strong female figure, though rowdy and tomboyish, so Meg is constantly nagging her to act more ladylike. This personality comes across very clearly to the audience. For example, when Meg and Jo are on their way to the ball, Meg is instructing Jo to not say immature phrases such as ‘Christopher Columbus!’ as she jumps with excitement that truly demonstrates her active personality. 

The rest of the March family is presented when Jo has flashbacks to her childhood as she rides the train home from New York. The eldest March sister is Meg (Emma Watson) who is obsessed with her vanity, followed by Jo the writer, then Beth (Eliza Scanlen), the quiet pianist, and finally the youngest sibling, Amy (Florence Pugh), a painter who is constantly at odds with her older sister, Jo. These flashbacks were a significant part of the film as they explained the events that led the March family to the state they were in when Jo is returning from New York. These flashbacks were particularly effective because they foreshadowed what was to come as the story weaved between the present and the past. 

During the movie, the audience witnesses the chaotic happenings within the March sisters’ lives from performing plays to joining forces with their young neighbor, Theodore Laurence (Timothée Chalamet), or Laurie as the March sisters call him. The events that unfold throughout the film are practically identical to the happenings in the book and no fundamental detail in Alcott’s novel was neglected. For me, this made the movie splendid because I do not enjoy films based on books that are not accurate.  For instance, in the novel Amy gets her foot stuck in a bucket of plaster. This scene seemed quite unimportant when reading about it, yet when Gerwig included it in the movie it came across as an amusing detail that was not forgotten because of Amy’s dramatic reaction. 

Despite the fact that the flashbacks were effective in some areas, one of the few complaints I have about this movie was the jumbling of the timeline. In the book, the events occur in a specific order as the sisters grow from teenagers to adults and eventually marry. However, in the movie, Gerwig illustrates the March sisters’ childhood through flashbacks instead of having the girls gradually grow up. For example, the film begins with Jo in New York, which in the novel is one of the ending scenes. This prominent feature in the film kept the audience on their toes; however, figuring out which scenes were flashbacks could be confusing, especially towards the end. 

Another small criticism I have of “Little Women” is Laurie and Amy’s portrayals. For instance, in the book, Alcott’s writing paints a vivid picture of how Laurie appears as a very unkempt, not proper gentleman. Although Chalamet is cute, especially in the eyes of young females, he was not the perfect fit for the role of Laurie. His appearance is nothing like I pictured after reading the novel, and his interactions with the March siblings seemed forced instead of natural as they should be. For example, after reading the book I envisioned Laurie to be a rowdy boy; however, in the movie his appearance was quite put together like a gentleman. 

Amy, on the other hand, is a challenging character to master because of her half-adorable and half-bratty personality, so I will warrant some credit towards Pugh. Though in the book Amy can be downright mean to Jo, she is still a lovable character in the reader’s eye. However, her attitude in the movie portrayed her as spoiled, and I found myself holding a grudge towards her by the time the credits rolled. One scene that particularly annoyed me is when Amy burns Jo’s novel in the stove. Although this does happen in the book and was a particularly cruel action toward Jo, the movie portrays Amy in this scene as not even regretful, as she never truly apologizes.  

Despite if you are not interested in this movie, I encourage you to give it a try whether you have read the book or because you just want to see Chalamet’s attractive face.