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Review: ‘Little Women’ Gives New Life to a Classic

December 23, 2019Britany Murphy

Greta Gerwig is back in the director's chair with the latest big screen incarnation of Louisa May Alcott's famous novel, "Little Women." A film about the lives of four sisters, Little Women is Gerwig's take on a classic, and she certainly succeeds at giving the story new life for a new generation of moviegoers.

The March sisters are a quartet who are inseparable, despite being mostly polar opposites. Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is the leader and she does her best to keep the lives of her sisters exciting. When we first meet her, she is doing her best to sell her stories while trying to make a living in New York City to support her family back in Massachusetts. Jo longs to write a novel but is currently settling for penning a variety of short stories and fluff pieces to keep food on the table for herself and her family. Meanwhile, her sisters are on journeys of their own outside the family home, with Meg (Emma Watson) having started a family, Amy (Florence Pugh) on travels in France with Aunt March (Meryl Streep). The only sister still at home is the piano-playing Beth (Eliza Scanlen), who is dealing with an illness and being cared for by their mother, Marmee (Laura Dern) and their housemaid Hannah (Jayne Houdyshell).

Splitting the narrative between the past and present, Little Women focuses more on the themes at play during the time period of and following the aftermath of the American Civil War, specifically the roles of women. While most are expected to get married and live the domestic dream, Jo longs for something better, something greater than what is expected of her. Her love of writing and the want to be remembered captures Jo's heart with greater intensity than that of staying at home and being a doting wife to a man she might not even truly love, like her long-time friend, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet). However, even though each of the sisters all have very different paths, nothing can come between the bonds of sisterhood — not even the unforgiving world they live in.

One cannot talk about the movie and not mention the powerful performances found within it. Ronan and Pugh, in particular, shine as Jo and Amy. While the pair is probably the least similar of the four sisters and often argue, especially with Amy always being in Jo's shadow, Ronan and Pugh are always pitch-perfect. Whether sharing the screen together or apart, the pair make strong cases as to why they are likely to be in the conversation for various acting awards come awards season. Utterly believable and passionate as their characters, Ronan and Pugh command attention throughout the film, however, this does not take away from the great performances by Dern, Streep, Chalamet and Scanlen, not to mention Chris Cooper as Mr. Laurence and James Norton as John Brooke.

The only caveat with the movie lies in the fact that it touches upon the American Civil War yet it fails to be more informative about not only women's rights during this time period, but the rights (or lack thereof) of African Americans as well. Despite this critique, Little Women will no doubt prove to be an enjoyable and delightful treat for filmgoers during the holiday season.

Little Women releases December 25th, 2019 from 20th Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for thematic elements and brief smoking. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 14 min.

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