Little Women by Greta Gerwig

We took our daughters to Little Women this afternoon and we all just loved it. I’ve never read the book or seen previous adaptations (nor had much interest in it, really) but I could tell by the trailer that Greta had done it right.

The movie is beautiful and touching and easily one of the best films of the year. Somehow she injects her free-spirit, Frances Ha energy into every frame of this thing. It’s light on its feet, beautifully-acted, funny, and just totally appealing. Even if you know the story, I suspect you’ll be surprised by what she’s done with it.

The screening was followed by an hour long Q&A with Janet Maslin and Greta Gerwig and, look, I took a picture!

I’m still weirded out that Greta Gerwig’s trajectory was literally mapped out by one of the mumblecore movies she starred in.

Definitely on the family list this Christmas! Hope to be able to wrangle people in to see it.

Looks good. Asking the GF if she wants to go Christmas day.

Saw the trailer for this yesterday, while at Knives Out!

I was rather dumbfounded that a) they are casting 30-somethings as teenagers and b: the story that appeared to be this movie has NOTHING to do with the novel on which it is “based.”

Oh well. Not something I would go to see anyway.

The actresses all play their characters at a variety of different ages, not just teenagers. She also blends Louisa May Alcott’s personal experience as a writer into Jo’s character to great effect.

As for men not wanting to see it, that subject came up first thing in the discussion. Like I said, I’ve never been interested in the story before but any movie lover worth a damn is watching anything and everything Greta Gerwig is doing.

I reject the idea of ‘chick flicks’ – a good movie is a good movie. If I had any time at all to go to the movies I might be interested in this, although I wasn’t a huge fan of Lady Bird. Gerwig is an up and comer but there are lots of great directors out there, and time is limited, even for movie lovers worth a damn!

Saw this today and we loved it. It’s fantastic. I think it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year. Gerwig is a force. Her retelling of the story was masterful. It’s very much an auteur film.

I’m not a big movie guy, but based on the trailer and the NYT review, this seems very good. I look forward to when it streams :)

Yeah, A.O. nails it.

“Little Women” — the latest of many adaptations — embraces its source material with eager enthusiasm rather than timid reverence. It is faithful enough to satisfy the book’s passionate devotees, who will recognize the work of a kindred spirit, while standing on its own as an independent and inventive piece of contemporary popular culture.

Yeah, this movie’s great. It’s faithful to the novel, except it unfolds non-chronologically, which works to its advantage. For one, it makes it a bit more dynamic and interesting than a retelling of the novel. For another, it allows it to handle Jo/Laurie much better than the ‘90s adaptation (which I remember liking). It’s very clear throughout, as it was in the book per my recollection, that Jo sees Laurie as merely a friend whereas the ‘90s adaptation seemed more interested in having them build a kind of will-they-or-won’t-they romantic tension. Further, it also makes Amy a much more likeable character. In fact, with the caveat I haven’t read the book in at least fifteen years (maybe closer to 20), it handles Amy better than Alcott did. The casting is excellent too. I hate to keep comparing it the ‘90s one, but Ronan is a way better Jo than Winona Ryder (and I like Ryder). She could have played Jo as Ladybird-but-in-the-1800s, but she doesn’t. She’s very much Jo, just a more believable one than previously seen on screen. Everyone else is great too, especially Chalamet who seems lab-designed to play boys like Laurie.

The only thing that did not quite work for me was it lamp shading the rather abrupt marriage of Jo and Professor Bhaer as something forced upon Jo/Alcott by a publisher (which is true if I’m not mistaken). The movie sort of tries to have it both ways: the publisher demanding Jo maker her protagonist marry, having Jo comment on how ridiculous it is, before acquiescing and going through with it. I think Bhaer is a better romantic match for Jo than Laurie ever could be, but it did not quite work well in the book either and the fact this movie flirts with the idea of having Jo never marry to mirror Alcott, then pull away from it, is a bit of narrative whiplash for me. It’s a rather minor thing, though. Overall, it’s an excellent adaptation.

Oh, and re: men not liking it. I think the world would be a better place if teenage boys would read and internalize Little Women. It could teach them important lessons like ‘just because a girl’s nice to you does not mean she’s in love with you’ that tons of men seem to struggle to grasp well into adulthood and become toxic assholes as a result.

I am leaning towards thinking the movie wants us to have it both ways – in the book they marry, but real life Jo (Alcott) stuck to her guns and never married. It seems ambiguous in the movie.

This times ten.

That’s sort of how I’m reading it too, but it still felt odd to me, maybe because of how it was edited.

I loved how Jo’s internal conflict over her writing and her marriage plays out alongside our primal audience instinct for true love’s kiss and happily ever after. (This might sound odd, but it reminded me of the way Unforgiven gets us craving violent vengeance even while it has us questioning the morality of it all.) But the scene where Bhaer “resurrects” Beth for the family by playing the piano gifted to her by Mr. Laurence completely sells me on his value to Jo and the whole family. So I’m 100% there for that classic rom-com “race to catch him before it’s too late” ending.

After talking to my wife and daughter (both of whom are reading the book) I thought it was kind of noteworthy that Gerwig chose not to include religion or household chores in the film.

I haven’t seen this yet, and don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity while it’s at the theater. But I’ll try. What sold me on it was both of NPR’s major book critics arguing that the movie is so good, it’s okay if kids are introduced to the classic through the medium of film instead of via book.

Younger kids might have trouble following the story because it jumps back and forth in time. It is a fabulous movie, though. I haven’t read the book but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone who has could put together a valid argument that the movie improves on the book.

Great, smart, authentic yet interpretive, modern yet happily a period piece, great cinematography and editing, great performances, fan fiction and fan ownership, how well written characters become living things with authentic voices, while never forgetting why and who gave them that.

Really, its greatest strength and weakness is assuming familiarity with the characters and story already, which gives the film the time to develop in more sophisticated ways but, just maybe, requires more from the audience than a typical film which spells everything out in bright, loud strokes.

It’s also entirely meta. If anything it’s Francis Ha again, the period piece.

I do think many less observant audience members will get very confused by the unexplained mixing of the character of Jo with Saoirse Ronan and the character of Louisa May Alcott, played by Saoirse Ronan, and this authorial assumption by Greta Gerwig that Alcott saw herself in Jo the same way Gerwig saw herself in Frances Ha.

I felt this was this sequence was the most important in the film, as at this sensitive and tear jerking moment the film drops out of narrative mode to remind the audience that this was a story, written by a woman in a certain place and certain time under certain conditions, and it is like a massive jolt to the whole film. Frankly it’s like a bullet to the uncanny valley, leaving the film’s characters entirely behind and turning it to Alcott, and leaving the marriage almost entirely a fluffy, saccharine and entirely superfluous thing - which feels like Gerwigs point, where we can have our cake and eat it too, because Alcott is real and they are not, and adding the wedding brings success and lasting fame to Alcott and timelessness to Jo.

Artistic works will challenge. This is a good thing.

I agree, and that complexity means I suspect this will go down as the definitive Little Women for a good 50 years.

I have no exposure to the source material, but I absolutely loved it. Great performances, sharp writing, and A+ directing. One of my favorite movies of the year.