I am rarely thoroughly impressed with a movie adaptation of a book.
The time and space found in books lend itself to rich character and plot development and an opportunity for one’s imagination to run wild. With that said, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women does a book I loved as a child incredible justice with little disruption to the original, homage to the era it was written, and a casting of characters that beautifully embody the spirits of the characters in the book.
It is not that the movie was not good. This adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s semi-autobiographical ode to sisterly love was quite brilliant and honestly the best of the bunch. But, I can only imagine what it could have been if more time was dedicated to further developing the characters and the essence of why this story was remarkable in 1868 and remains a timely topic today.
For those who are unfamiliar, Little Women is set in Civil War-era Massachusetts and tells the story of four teenage sisters and their mother spending their first Christmas without their patriarch. During this year, with dad away, we are shown a woven and complex story about the sister’s relationships, both with each other and others.
The March sisters are a rather diverse group.
And what I particularly love about their story is it is honest. There are times when they love each other, times that they hate each other, times where they hurt each other, and times when the bond of sisterhood outshines it all.
It really reminds me a lot about my relationship with my sister. Knowing a bond like that is what punches you in the heart during this movie and in the book.
There are Meg and Jo, the two elder sisters, who are taking on the burden of supporting the family. Meg (played by Emma Watson) is beautiful and traditional, and Jo (played by Saoirse Ronan) is the gal we all wish we could be. She is fiercely independent, and at a time when women didn’t have many options outside of becoming a wife, Jo chooses her happiness over marriage (at least when it matters).
Then there are the younger sisters, the sickly Beth–the voice of reason (played by Eliza Scanlen) and vapid Amy (played by Florence Pugh), who’s selfishness and thirst for wealth is really toned down in the movie. I am not sure how I feel about the portrayal of Amy in this movie, but I am 100 percent in love with Pugh and cannot wait to see what she does next!
I will never be able to say if I would have been invested in this adaptation had I not read the books, but if I had to give it a guess, I would say yes. The actors themselves bring a lot of depth to the characters and story, and they make it so easy to fall in love with its rambunctious spirit.
The chemistry amongst the cast–and their love interests–is seamless, and their acting was perfection. I swear, I didn’t even think about Harry Potter when Watson was in a scene. And just like when I read the books, my heart ached during every moment it should have.
But, I can only imagine how much more I would have loved it had the story not been so crammed.
When I mentioned earlier that it was a shame this movie wasn’t made into a series, one of the main reasons why is because to tell this robust story, there are about 1 million time jumps that are jarring and make the writing seen unfocused, especially for the first half of the movie. I’ll describe it as scattered and messy. That’s a shame.
The other letdown was the toned-down involvement of Aunt March, especially when Meryl Streep is portraying the character. I WANTED MORE!
Little Women is rated PG and opens Christmas Day at area theaters.