Grackles review Little Women

Directed by Greta Gerwig

Reviewed by Colleen Mayo and Kat Moore

Greta Gerwig’s 2019 film adaptation of the classic period novel by Louisa May Alcott follows the coming of age of the March sisters Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen), and Amy (Florence Pugh) while they play, grow, and navigate womanhood in Civil-War era Massachusetts.

Gerwig structures the story differently from the book and previous movie adaptations. Rather than proceed chronologically, the film switches between the novel’s two main timelines: in childhood, the four girls live humbly with their mother Marmee (Laura Dern) while their father serves as a pastor in the Union Army. Next door is their wealthy neighbored Mr. Laurence and his grandson, Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Timothée Chalamet). In adulthood, the women have spread out. Meg has married and now lives with her husband. Jo lives in a boarding house in New York where she works as a governess, publishes her adventure stories, and develops a deep friendship with the German professor Friedrich Bhaer. Beth struggles with her health at home in Concord MA. Amy is busy painting and pursuing a potential marriage proposal in Paris with the girls’ rich Aunt March, whose itchy stuffiness is played to perfection by Meryl Streep.

Colleen Mayo: Now! I am of the legion of women who grew up cherishing Alcott’s novel. In 7th grade, I auditioned for the role of Jo March in a middle school production of the play (and received a nameless role with two lines and consoled myself by saying I was a writer not an actress, like Jo). I give this disclaimer to say I’m the viewer who is expecting certain iconic scenes. I’ve got nostalgia tangled up in each and every March-sister experience. Jo must burn Meg’s hair. Amy must obsess over having limes at school. Beth must play Mr. Laurence’s piano, and so on. Gerwig’s adaptation not only delivers on these childhood moments, but she gives them with such life and movement that the characters feel at once familiar and new. What a gift! It truly surprised me—I was expecting to like the film but not for it to connect with me as an adult while also reopening my whole eleven-year-old heart. In particular I adore the ensemble scenes, where we get to step back and watch all four little women whoosh and churn across the screen, chortling and chatting and ricocheting off one another. It’s thrilling to watch t