I saw Little Women on Christmas Day at the Somerville Theater in Davis Square and it was completely packed! I know many of us love to go to the movies on Christmas, but I was not expecting every single seat to be filled, especially at a 7:00pm showing. Though I suppose I shouldn't be that surprised, there has been an incredible amount of buzz for this movie.
This version of Louisa May Alcott's classic is written (for the screen) and directed by Greta Gerwig. Gerwig cemented her place on the Hollywood A-List as the screenwriter and director of Lady Bird, which premiered in November 2017. Little Women reunites her with two of her lead actors from Lady Bird, Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet.
Ronan plays Jo March, the sister known for her fierce independence. She is furious about the limitations placed on women and bucks them at every turn. Jo's passion is storytelling. As a child, she would write plays for her and her sisters to perform. As she gets older, she eventually moves to New York City to pursue writing full-time.
Ronan is fantastic in this role. She's equal parts trailblazer and devoted sister and daughter (which are attributes that can often be in conflict). My favorite scene of hers in the entire movie is when she's wondering if she's made a mistake about Laurie (more to come on that) and she breaks down to her mother, saying she wants to keep chasing her dreams, but she's just "so lonely!" It's a very raw display of emotion and one I found deeply relatable.
Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, plays Meg March. Meg loves to act and has a taste for the finer things in life. She falls for Laurie's tutor, John, and has a full heart, but empty pockets. I found her most compelling scene to be her attempt to fit in at a debutante ball. She allows the other girls to give her a pet name, Daisy, and she tries desperately to blend in with these upper crust women.
Florence Pugh plays Amy March, the most hated sister. Amy has always been viewed as the most selfish of the group, committing the ultimate betrayal by marrying Laurie, Jo's childhood best friend and love interest. Personally, I felt Amy got some of the best dialogue in Gerwig's screenplay. She got to be evil when seeking revenge against Jo and makes the most judgemental commentary in any given situation. Of all the sisters, she also gets to wear the best outfits, especially during her time abroad in Paris.
Eliza Scanlen plays Beth, the quietest of the sisters. You may recognize Scanlen as Amma Crellin on HBO's Sharp Objects. Beth is a gifted pianist and fills the house with music. She is the calm amidst the storm. Along with her musical talents, Beth is most remembered for her tragic death from Scarlet Fever. She becomes ill after going out of her way to help a less fortunate family in town. She contracts the sickness from that visit.
The girls' mother is played beautifully by Laura Dern. She is nurturing and kind, while also giving the girls plenty of room to learn and grown on their own. She is constantly reminding them to be compassionate and generous. She's their compass.
Meryl Streep joins as the cast as Aunt Marge, who is single, yet incredibly wealthy. She reminds the girls every chance she gets the best way forward in life is to marry rich. She has quite a few zingers in the script too.
Timothée Chalamet takes on the role of Laurie. He's the honorary fifth March sister, joining them daily for fun and games and pining his whole life for a future with Jo. When he proposes to Amy, it feels wrong. Even if you've read the book, saw the earlier version of the movie (where Laurie is played by a young Christian Bale) and you know this twist is coming, it still breaks your heart. Throughout the film, I couldn't help but notice that Chalamet looked and sounded like a young Casey Affleck. Especially in scenes where he is goofing around with the girls, he reminded me so much of Affleck in Good Will Hunting.
In addition to the superb writing and casting of this movie, the sets and costumes really bring the time period to life. The whole thing was shot right here in Massachusetts! I love this piece on Boston.com highlighting all the local spots featured in the film.
The movie clocks in at 134 minutes. It does feel long. There are scenes that linger longer than necessary and I think if they had trimmed 30 seconds here or 60 seconds there, it could have been a perfect 120 minutes. I was completely into it with no concept of time until Beth's death and then everything that came after felt slow. That's partially due to the sadness, but I definitely think it needed one more edit to tighten it.
When we walked out of the theater, I said, "I loved it! I laughed way more than I expected to." Gerwig's rendition is smart, funny and poignant. She has re-imagined the story in a way that keeps the sisterhood we all know and love, but breathes new life into the tale with her signature humor. Also, I will watch any movie that pairs Gerwig and Ronan.
Little Women is definitely worth seeing in the theater. Be sure to pack tissues!