Greta Gerwig’s Small Women is a warm blanket in a cold world: Review
Does the world really need another Little Women? Dozens of stage and screen adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel would probably say no. And for the most part, that she did: Her 2019 take is less a faithful rendering of this text than a kind of joyful reimaging, a classic rid of cobwebs (though it keeps the crinolines).
The story plunges without preamble into the New York lifetime of aspiring writer Jo (Gerwig’s Lady Bird muse Saoirse Ronan) scratching by in a local boarding home and attempting to market her swashbuckling adventure stories to a skeptical publisher (Tracy Letts).
For lovers of the novel, the figures that shortly appear in flashbacks are more than familiar — they feel like family: Meg (Emma Watson), the tender, well-behaved eldest March sister; candy homebody Beth (Eliza Scanlen); vain little dreamer Amy (Florence Pugh); and their saintly, eternally patient mother Marmee (Laura Dern).
While the March patriarch (Bob Odenkirk) is away fighting the Civil War, the surrogate men in the girls’ lives become their wealthy, stiff-lipped neighbor (Chris Cooper), his worried grandson Theodore”Laurie” Laurence (Timothée Chalamet), and Laurie’s impossibly square-jawed coach John Brooke (James Norton).
Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures
It is difficult to know how non-readers of this book will take in most of what follows, since Gerwig’s script so often supposes that her audience understands the narrative and she does, and are alike impatient to get to the good stuff. Many of the touchstone moments of the book — a curling iron, a glove that was mislaid, an icy plunge in a local pond — are treated more like incidents to be ticked off a list than lingered on.
that may make the first half feel equally rushed and episodic, but as the story evolves to its telling, the old magic of the story — and Gerwig’s vibrant, tender-hearted link to it take over. The appearance of the film itself is lovely, nearly every scene gorgeously composed and shot in painterly light, and the throw, from the delicately of Dern shaded Marmee into the lovelorn Laurie of Chalamet , uniformly amazing\.
Pugh, therefore good in this year’s Midsommar and Fighting With My Family, brings welcome layers into her willful pigtailed Amy; Cooper, Odenkirk, and Meryl Streep, as the women’ ornery Aunt March, duly make the most of their small turns. Nonetheless, it’s Ronan’s ferocious, tender Jo who conveys just about any scene she’s in; a fourth Oscar nod to the Irish actress, nevertheless somehow only 25, seems both inevitable and got.
Purists may blanche at the strenuously modern manufacturer of feminism the film imposes here, and also the generally contemporary atmosphere that permeates over all its carriages and top hats. If Gerwig’s awakened Women-hood verges on anachronism, though, it also feels fully loyal to the spirit of Alcott, a woman constantly well in advance of her time. And like a sort of balm too, for a age when the long-held values — kindness, courage, strength in vulnerability of the novel — still feel a lot farther away than they ought to. A–
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