Review (Spoiler Free): Little Women

Not So Little Women


Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saorise Ronan, and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Yoonsoo (Seth) Choi, Staff Writer

“I intend to make my own way in the world,” declares Jo March in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the book “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. Aunt March, played by Meryl Streep, scolds her saying “No one makes their way, least of all a woman. You’ll need to marry well.” The exchange shows Jo’s rejection of societal norms of women and the backlash she faces from people who don’t understand her feminist spirit. 

The film is a coming of age story set in New England during the Civil War about the four March sisters. Emma Watson is Meg, the eldest sister who enjoys acting and falls head over heels for John Brooke, the penniless tutor, played by James Norton. Jo is played by Saorise Ronan who really shines in her role as a fiercely independent heroine. This comes after her breakout role as Christine Mcpherson in Gregwig’s first film “Lady Bird” for which she received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and she delivers again. Amy the artist, portrayed by Florence Pugh, shows more sympathy than in previous adaptations and craves for the affection of Laurie, very well played by Timothée Chalamet. His performance is memorable because it is rare to have females in lead roles and males in supporting roles, but he expertly navigates these uncharted waters. Last but not least, Beth the sweet but sick pianist is played by Eliza Scanlen. Their mother is Mary March, played by Laura Dern, affectionately called Marmee. 

The movie is full of great cinematography. In one brilliant scene, Laurie and Jo are in a backroom at a ball. Jo is afraid to dance with a scorched dress, so Laurie proposes a solution. They go outside and dance on the porch which looks like a hallway with the ball visible through the windows. The choreography is both “totally modern and period-accurate” as Gerwig describes it in an interview for the New York Times. Gerwig says the film is shot with a filter to give it a “snow globe quality” that feels warm and shimmery. The movie was shot on-site at Alcott’s home and the cinematography really brings the story to life. 

Gerwig was awarded Best Director by the National Society of Film Critics for her second film, “Little Women”. She told Entertainment that growing up Jo was her hero and now as an adult, her hero is Alcott. She felt she was fated to direct the film, and it was something she had wanted to do for more than 30 years. Coincidentally, “Little Women” was released when she is 36, the same age as Alcott when the book “Little Women” was published. 

Vanity Fair has said that Little Women has “a little man problem”, however, “Little Women” has received rave reviews and grossed more than $140 million domestically and internationally. The success of “Little Women” shows that moviegoers and men more specifically can empathize with female heroines, a quality that Jo would have appreciated.