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Gerwig’s cast and crew revitalize ‘Little Women’

| Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

Greta Gerwig’s adapted screenplay of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, “Little Women,” captured attention with its cast and kept that attention through its effective cinematography. This latest rendition of a classic story about family and the social status of women ignited hope in the hearts of viewers at the close of 2019.

Even from the trailer alone, one could sense the chaotic chemistry between the March sisters. Much of the story’s conflict sparks between Saoirse Ronan’s fiery Jo and Florence Pugh’s ambitious Amy. Responsible Meg and gentle Beth, played by Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen, respectively, bookend the two middle sisters with grace. Throughout the movie, the four March girls find a way to rise above any altercations due to their strong bonds, an ability reflected in the characterization of Laura Dern’s patient Marmee.

Meryl Streep does not disappoint in her crotchety portrayal of old Aunt March. Both regal and wry, she unsuccessfully attempts to dull Jo’s flame while significantly stoking Amy’s. Her ragged voice does sound a bit familiar, but that’s probably because she seems to star in practically every movie. Timothée Chalamet ties the whole film together as Laurie. He combines an air of mischief and fierce protectiveness of the March girls with obvious talent. Anything could happen when Chalamet’s Laurie has a gleam in his eye.

The scene of Jo and Laurie’s “meet cute” stole my heart — and their later disagreement broke it. The energy between Chalamet and Ronan is palpable as they stumble through “proper” dance moves in their own world, so to speak, far away from the elegant party. Maybe I felt the residual heartbreak from Chalamet and Ronan’s failed relationship in “Lady Bird,” but Jo’s rejection of Laurie’s marriage proposal left me wishing they had at least given marriage a shot. I can’t begrudge Jo if she didn’t truly love Laurie, but I thought the two would’ve made a great couple. I guess this is just a sign that Ronan and Chalamet should date in real life.

The absence of a love story between Jo and Laurie began to feel even more poignant when Pugh’s Amy became a potential candidate for Chalamet’s Laurie. It is undeniable that Amy exhibits a powerful passion of her own in painting, yet I found myself constantly annoyed with her efforts to tag-along with Jo or Meg when they went anywhere. This annoyance was compounded when her antics culminated in the burning of Jo’s writing. Such are the stakes of sisterhood.

The movie’s back-and-forth narrative structure took some adjustment. Once it became established, though, I enjoyed drawing connections between past and future. This non-chronological format fostered strong parallels in the scenes depicting Beth’s two bouts of illness. The colors in the March house during these two episodes could not have contrasted more—the second time around hinted at tragedy with darker grays and blues. And the same can be said for the pair of beach scenes. All four sisters (and Laurie) happily frolic about during their first visit to the sea. Later, Jo and Beth return on their own, the result being a more solemn and somber moment between the two.

As for Jo’s romantic moment at the end of the film, I’m not sure I was entirely convinced. Ronan created such a headstrong woman writer who seemed perfectly self-sufficient. I hope Jo didn’t take Mr. Dashwood’s words too seriously and marry just for an ending, just as her heroine had to do.

With its cavalry of a cast and clever filming, Gerwig’s “Little Women” is a must-see.

 

Movie: “Little Women”

Director: Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep

If You Like: Louisa May Alcott’s novel, “Lady Bird,” “Anne of Green Gables”

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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