Little Women revolves around four young women, their doting mother, their committed house help, a generous neighbour and an attractive rich young man. In the beginning, Little Women appears to be a story about do-gooders.
While it stays true to Louisa May Alcott’s classic released during the 1860s, the scriptwriter Gerwig, gets to the heart of the story, and makes it feel current.
The story follows the lives of the four young girls, their neighbours and parents. An interesting character is their wealthy Aunt March played by Meryl Streep.
In short, it is a heart-warming tale of love, life and aspirations.
An author, a painter, an aspiring actress and a budding pianist. Every one of the four March sisters (Jo, Amy, Meg and Beth) is talented. However, it’s the mark of the times they live in where women have to choose between marriage and death. The first scene itself describes the challenges that budding author Jo faces when she tries to sell her first story to a newspaper editor.
The book has two main parts but the movie dives straight into the second. Jo is in New York attempting to make it as a writer, yet is compelled to produce commercial potboilers to get by and send cash back home. Meg is hitched with two kids but her husband isn’t wealthy enough to get her expensive clothes. Beth is sickly and confined to her bed, growing weaker everyday while Amy is trying to fulfil her own aspirations about becoming a world renowned painter. She is living with her Aunt March (played by Meryl Streep), when she runs into her neighbour and good friend “Laurie.”
The film bounces to and fro between the present and the past, as the author (Gerwig) utilizes flashbacks of romantic, tragic and sentimental moments that mould the March sisters’ childhoods.
The chronological rearranging makes the story pulse and pushes the viewer to pay attention.
The coming-of-age of the four young women happens against the backdrop of their times, class, age and gender. Romance shows up in the form of youthful Teddy Laurence (Timothée Chalamet), the irreverent grandson of a well off Concord single man (Chris Cooper). Laurie, as the sisters call him, appears on occasion increasingly like a fifth March sister or an awkward young man more than a romantic interest.
Jo struggles to fulfil her aspirations as a writer in conditions where marriage seems to be the only answer for women. Ronan, who plays Jo makes the character relatable and lovable, with her quick wit and on-point dialogue delivery. Amy played by Pugh is torn between youth and adulthood, the aspiration for success as a painter and the knowledge of her standing in society as a woman. Meg (Emma Watson) and Beth are also endearing to watch, and give a sense of completeness to the story. The dynamics between the four sisters, their mother, friends and neighbours is fraught with a contagious energy, that makes Little Women a completely enjoyable watch.
Many were unhappy with the way the original novel ended, mainly because it depicted that Jo who flouted convention, finally succumbed by settling for the German author. However, the movie is a refreshing departure. While there is the frenetic run to the station to catch up with Bhaer, we also get to see Jo watch her very first book being printed and bound. She then holds the book and grins, out of artistic fulfillment.
The movie allows us to wonder if the story closes with marital bliss for Jo, and even challenges us to envision a world in which she remains single and happy as a successful writer.
My Honest Opinion
For those who loved the book and have seen previous versions of the movie, this one will come as a breath of fresh air.
It is liberal, earnest, brimming with romance and sentiment, mindful without being cynical and grounded in the complexities of life.
With solid performances and charming characters, ‘Little Women’ is a winsome retelling of a great classic that is as wonderful as it is genuine.