Newest Rendition of a Classic Novel Joins Others
With six adaptations overtime, spanning from as early as 1917, fans of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women held high expectations for its newest rendition in 2019. Featuring the well-known faces of Emma Watson, Meryl Streep, Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet, the classic was adapted to entertain any generation of viewers.
Directed by Greta Gerwig, screenplay was refreshing and almost homely in the way it was organized. Relying on sharp, witty dialogue to portray the bond between the March sisters, there was an obvious camaraderie between the characters by the conclusion of the movie. Consistently packed with humorous side-comments and anecdotal remarks, Gerwig portrayed the March sisters’ relationship with the Laurence family incredibly well.
As an avid reader of literary classics, this adaptation most accurately mirrored Alcott’s book, and (luckily) did not inject modern or foul language into the movie for the sake of the viewers. I was impressed by the romantic gestures in the movie and was glad to see no unnatural anachronism in their dynamics, particularly with Laurie’s (Timothee Chalamet) actions regarding Amy March (Florence Pugh). Instead, it was a historically-realistic take.
Casting made sense visually, mostly coinciding with Alcott’s literary descriptions with the exception of Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel), Jo March’s love interest. With his dark complexion and unapologetic nature he came across as a good two decades younger than what he should have been. I would have liked to see Garrel with more screen time to better portray his character, which I felt was largely underdeveloped and therefore disproportionate to his actions at the conclusion of the film. However, he played the time he did have on the big screen with energy and a strong grasp for Bhaer’s mindset. His chemistry with Saoirse Ronan was almost tangible, making their umbrella scene one of the most visually stunning, and unforgettable, scenes of the film; as well as my personal favorite.
The decision to cast Saoirse Ronan deserves nothing less than a warm round of applause. Acting as the reckless and independent Jo March, Ronan had an obvious stage presence and sense of confidence, making her character come alive on the big screen. Highly entertaining to watch, her almost searing sense of humor was consistent with Alcott’s depiction of her. Ronan gave a strong performance with very little to criticize.
I was highly impressed by the ability of the actors, in particular Emma Watson (playing Meg March) to mimic an American accent when in reality many speak with a British one. It was a small decision to act on, but one which was nonetheless consistent throughout the film. In Watson’s case, she had studied an accurate accent so well that I had forgotten her true nationality by the conclusion of the story. It further shows how much dedication the actors had collectively put into producing such an accurate and smooth film.
One of the sole drawbacks to this streamlined adaptation would be the timeline, which made sense to me as someone who read the book, but might otherwise be confusing. Using en-media-res to cover around a decade in less than an hour, this method made sense but could have been organized better. It was not obvious at times when each memory occurred when. However, the directors’ decision to include snippets of childhood which would to some seem unimportant served to communicate the relationship of the March family. For instance, the death of Beth March (Eliza Scanlen) was confusing chronologically; playing scenes of her healthy and active after her supposed passing. However, her death was portrayed so well it brought tears to my eyes, as well as those of any mother in the audience.
Here would be a good opportunity to acknowledge Alexandre Desplat, composer of the soundtrack; he greatly improved the cinematic experience with his perfect reflection of the movie’s emotional range.
On the whole, Greta Gerwig has directed an all-star cast who demonstrated great talent during the production of this film and succeeded in producing an accurate, heart-warming adaptation of an already world-renowned novel. I was thoroughly impressed with this take on the film, relieved in its authenticity and ready to recommend it.