By Hector Valverde
I’ve never read Little Women or experienced any of its numerous adaptations across the stage and screens. I also never plan to now, because Greta Gerwig has made an almost, if not outright perfect film in her warm, emotional, masterfully moving update of Louisa May Alcott’s seminal coming-of-age novel.
Photo Courtesy of IMDB
With the one of the best collective cast I’ve seen in ages, Little Women chronicles the lives of Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth March (Eliza Scanlen), four young sisters keeping up their household while their father fights for the North in the American Civil War. When they befriend their wealthy neighbor, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), their lives are changed forever, diverging across seven years as the girls reach adulthood and take their individual paths to fulfill their dreams and ambitions.
Expertly directed by Gerwig, everyone in the film is incredible. As Jo, Ronan rocks the piece with the lovely vibrance of young adulthood, impeccably measuring head-first spunk, drama, and heart in one of the best, most well-rounded performances of the year. Anchoring and tying together the film’s emotional conceits through her work, Ronan’s only ever better when paired with Chalamet’s Laurie in a sweeping rollercoaster of joyous vibrance and chemistry.
Pugh is additionally amazing as Amy, wrapping up her breakout year with her most polished and dynamic performance yet, and though they get a little less to do, Watson and Scanlen are also nothing short of great as the other two March sisters. That’s to say nothing of Laura Dern and Meryl Streep’s lovely supporting roles as the March’s two-generational matriarchs. It’s going to be rough singling out a single performance to push for come awards season.
If there’s one silly complaint to give to Little Women, it’s that the primarily non-American cast notably slips into their native accents on occasion. That and the fact that there’s some much-needed suspension of disbelief to buy that the full-grown actresses are playing blossoming teenagers—children, in essence—for much of the movie’s seven-year flashbacks.
Again, it’s less than a trifle of a criticism given just how phenomenal the craftsmanship everyone puts into the film is. There’s never not an array of beautiful costumes decorating the amazing performances on screen at any time, Alexandre Desplat’s score is warm and evocative, and the cinematography is lush at every turn.
And while the source material itself is gratifying food for the soul, it’s Gerwig that really makes the film something special in every single scene. The obvious love and passion the director feels for the material is tangible in every intimate minute, laugh, and heart-to-heart within the film, giving Little Women that extra cherry kiss on top that elevates the piece to pure, blissful perfection.
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