"Little Women" is no Small Feat
Greta Gerwig's interpretation of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" is the sixth film adaptation of the beloved book. The impact of a story can be judged by how many generations of readers it affects. The major releases of this story over the decades tell a story that cannot be botched by filmmakers. Since it's been so well done before, it begs the question, how could Ms. Gerwig approve on such a timeless classic?
Well, for one thing, Ms. Gerwig marks her art with the period she's from. This story takes place during the Civil War, when the rights of women were merely seeds planted of which had yet to break through the earth. Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) is negotiating with a publisher and not giving in to his bottom dollar offer to have her stories published. This sets the tone for the movie. Jo is sure of herself as is Ms. Gerwig is of her own direction. Ms. Gerwig's sense of women's ability to control their own future is planted firmly within Jo and she doesn't wither when confronted by a man's opinion. This can be said of the March women in general. The March sisters have their own likes and dislikes and each give wholeheartedly to their passions while making sure the bonds of family never loosen.
The actresses Ms. Gerwig has recruited to bring the March family to life are a high-powered list of talented actresses that include Florence Pough, Laura Dern, Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen. Ms. Gerwig's history with the craft was evident in her previous picture "Lady Bird" and shines with her casting choices here as well. But what separates this direction from other films with wonderful talent is Ms. Gerwig's decision to show us these actors on the screen together. There is no better cinematic joy then watching actors at the height of their craft working off one another. This picture is so much better for it.
Ms. Gerwig has also played with the narrative. She and her editor, Nick Houy, played with the chronological order of the story. Was this necessary with a beloved classic? Perhaps not but it made it interesting and it kept me on my toes. It made each scene engaging. I had to figure out when each scene took place in the story. It is not as distracting as I've made it sound. Actually, just the opposite. It allowed me to enjoy the pleasure of how Ms. Gerwig molded every scene and allowed me to admire how she had command of this story. The style also allowed a familiar story to feel fresh and new.
Those who have fallen in love with this classic story and I'm sure there are many of you, will not be disappointed. At the conclusion of "Little Women" we watch Jo labor over the story we've just seen and I can decisively say that she would not be disappointed in Ms. Gerwig's interpretation of it.