We've seen numerous adaptations of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel on the small and big screens, but remixed and led by director Greta Gerwig, this version of "Little Women" soars to new heights.
There shouldn't be any penalties for re-making something that's familiar to people...in some ways, it's more challenging to please existing audiences than it is to establish new ones. For the past decade, Greta Gerwig has established herself as the bona fide Queen of Independent Film and one of the best actresses of her generation. But what a revelation to discover that Gerwig, the actress, was only scratching the surface. With her remarkable "Lady Bird" and now "Little Women," Gerwig is quickly showing us that there's much more to her than what she has contributed on-screen.
Gerwig would have been perfect for any of the roles in "Little Women," but she stays behind the camera in this one, further defining herself as one of the most versatile individuals in show business. In front of the camera, she assembles an absolute who's who of the hottest and best acting talents in Hollywood.
From Meryl Streep as Aunt March, Chris Cooper as the grieving neighbor Mr. Laurence, and Laura Dern as matriarch Marmee March, she matches these three existing stars with three of the best young actresses working today: Led by her "Lady Bird" muse, Saoirse Ronan, takes on the juicy, spitfire Jo March who is too spirited to ever settle down. Emma Watson plays the domesticated and uptight Meg, while breakthrough candidate of the year, Florence Pugh ("Midsommar") plays the love-struck Amy March, who is smitten for Laurie (current Hollywood "It" actor, Timothée Chalamet)...Laurie of course, first had set his sights on Jo, but, you know. The sisters are rounded out with Eliza Scanlen in the role of Beth March, and a delicious performance by Tracy Letts as the stodgy book publisher, Mr. Dashwood.
The magic that Gerwig is able to breathe into "Little Women" is a tremendous achievement. It is simultaneously a faithful adaptation of the beloved novel, the story and its characters, yet the movie is framed in a new and exciting way that makes it feel a bit lighter and more accessible to modern audiences. Gerwig is gifted in comedy as well as drama, and she's able to find a bit more humor in some of the situations than this story has been able to muster in previous versions.
As the story of the four March girls intertwine, Gerwig gracefully navigates between them. Casting Chalamet as Laurie is perfect, given that he's heartthrob number one when it comes to young leading actors. Saoirse Ronan gives her best-ever performance as Jo (and that's saying something), a role that Katharine Hepburn played in the first 1933 "Little Women" film adaptation. And Florence Pugh, what a year for the 23-year-old actress who is right on the verge of shooting into the stratosphere of super-stardom.
"Little Women" resonates, how else can you explain its popularity since being published in 1868? But this is no dry remake. It's going to please fans, but with any luck, this is a great chance for new audiences to latch on and discover what all the fuss is about.
Genre: Drama, Romance.
Run Time: 2 hours and 14 minutes.
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk.
Screenplay by Greta Gerwig, adapted from the classic novel "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott.
Directed by Greta Gerwig ("Lady Bird," "Nights and Weekends").
"Little Women" opens everywhere on Christmas Day 2019.
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