Little Women (2019)

A warm, saccharine, poignant canvas of feminine softness, Victorian elegance, legendary cast of actresses, & sweeping score of virtuoso passion juxtaposing a rarified air of adapted screenplays – going beyond prose/story to author. 9.1/10.

Plot Synopsis: In the years after the Civil War, Jo March lives in New York and makes her living as a writer, while her sister Amy studies painting in Paris. Amy has a chance encounter with Theodore, a childhood crush who proposed to Jo but was ultimately rejected. Their oldest sibling, Meg, is married to a schoolteacher, while shy sister Beth develops a devastating illness that brings the family back together.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Review

In Gerwig We Trust

One Of The Most Talented & Exciting Modern Filmmakers, Regardless Of Gender

1917. 1918. 1933. 1949. 1978. 1981. 1994. 2018. 2019. That 1860’s novel you probably remember reading in English Lit. class back in High School has seen a veritable slew of forgettable adaptations translating it to the big screen. A story core to the female experience and one of the most famous literary works by a woman many consider beloved and rites of passage in their own lives, it was finally time for a good, definitive adaptation generations-past, present, and future could look up to and cherish for centuries to come. In comes Greta Gerwig, one of the most talented & exciting modern filmmakers (regardless of gender) coming fresh off a rebellious teen-spirit solo directorial debut in the fiery 5x-Oscar Nom’d Lady Bird, and she brought some friends – perhaps the biggest heavy-hitters of the cinematic world actress-wise. They have succeeded in achieving a magic and adaptation to put an end to the slew, and a film even better than LB. A warm, saccharine, poignant canvas of feminine softness, Victorian elegance, legendary cast of Saoirse-led actresses, & sweeping score of virtuoso passion & vibrancy juxtaposing a rarified air of adapted screenplays by the impeccable Greta Gerwig – going beyond the story itself to its author.

One Of The Best Adapted Screenplays This Decade

The Dichotomy Of Story/Author & Themes Core To The Female Experience

Easily the biggest triumph of 2019’s Little Women is its screenplay – a screenplay that changes what it means to be an Adapted Screenplay. This isn’t just another cookie-cutter retelling of the same story we’ve been hearing since High School; Gerwig and co. decide to spice up the canvas by splicing together past, present, and future.. reality and fiction.. nihilism and idealism. We pick up and end on Jo March negotiating and selling the timeless tale to a book publisher bent on destroying her confidence and picking up the works at a cheaper price (welcome to Capitalism), but between the bread slices is a plot construction that twists, turns, and spins you around as you follow March’s life-story juxtaposed and wedged between the storyline of the book to show her inspiration and real-life experiences/family members she packaged into every page of the iconic novel. The script also fits in some modern vivacity and energy signature of Gerwig’s gripping directorial style pacing-wise, emotional character moments spanning the full gamut of human pathos from soaring heights of love and happiness to the depths of sorrow and depression, and themes core to the female experience like love, sacrifice, artistry, self-worth, oppression, family, sisterhood, respect, wifehood, motherhood, ambition, economics, legacy, and fighting the world around you trying to put you down.

The Cinematography & Victorian Elegance In Every Frame, Costume, & Set Piece

The cinematography of Little Women is sensational. Yorick Le Saux has managed to capture a breathtaking array of pure Victorian elegance in every frame – bolstered by rich set and costume design to provide a startlingly-transportive journey into such a romantic, elegant, graceful, soft, (tragic) era it’s difficult not to find comfortable solace and happiness in for 2 hours. The way it transitions at the flip of a switch from cool nihilistic/depressive undertones in a cold, industrial landscape of not-so-happy reality to warm, golden-hued nostalgic idealism in its novel’s reality-rewrite ones is sensational only adding to the portrait of character development portraying this intriguing duality and dichotomy of the March sisters’ story. Jacqueline Durran has delivered a magic here that deserves serious praise and awards recognition, easily the frontrunner for the 92nd Academy Awards and one that blends smoothly with its visuals, screenplay, performances, and score for a distinctly 1800’s period-authenticity and piece that is amongst the best total packages from the era.

The Score

No, THIS is the greatest achievement of Little Women: the orchestral score. Jason Howland’s soundscape is one of the most poignant, balanced, soft, emotional, soaring, vibrant melody-bursting scores I’ve heard in a long time; one that – if it wasn’t up against Hildur Guõnadóttir’s opposite-spectrum booming, intense, trumpet-laden Joker score this year – would sweep the Oscars like it sweeps through piano chords. Like Chopin x Mozart with every classical composer mixed in and barely a second across the film not dotted with at least a note or pitch to accompany it, the orchestration is relentless but never overstays its welcome – adding another level to the enjoyment, elegant socialtite glamour of the age and escapist flair of its cinematography, costume, and set design for a sensory-package unlike anything else this year. Fantastic.

The Performances

Perhaps The Most Storied Cast Of Modern Actresses To Ever Grace The Screen

The performances. As if the previous adorations weren’t enough, 2019’s Little Women boasts one of the most insane cast ensembles to ever do a women-based film: like the Justice League or Avengers of actresses bringing together many of the top names in modern – or All-Time female thespians. Saoirse Ronan predictively steals the show as the bubbly-yet-fierce, haunted-yet-hopeful, persevering Jo March, delivering a somehow even better performance than she did in 2017’s Lady Bird to achieve chameleon-actress and top-tier acting pedigree at such a young age. Florence Pugh deserves praise too as support – getting an almost immature, bratty flair as Amy March near-perfectly for a package (together with Midsommar as the antithesis of her character here) that showcases her phenomenal range and talent as well. Beyond that, Emma Watson is vibrant as Meg choosing love over shallow materialism in her marriage arc, Laura Dern a delightful mother goose to the bunch, Eliza Scanlen heartbreaking as the sick youngest pushing Jo to continue writing stories, Timothée Chalamet a charming love/romance interest for the girls used as a kaleidoscope for all their thoughts and ambitions as well as social and gender commentary, and Bob Odenkirk an adorable father figure for his ‘Little Women’ he can’t wait to see when he gets back from the war. Oh, and – of course, if all that wasn’t enough – the heaviest hitter of them all: Meryl Streep completes what is indeed one of the strongest performance canvases of the year in this modern classic.

Flaws

Flaws are few in this masterful canvas of sisterhood, but the marriage/third-wave feminist inklings in the back-half are a bit eye-rollable. What is wrong with romance and marriage – Jo acts like it’s a sin that her book’s character ends up with any man (*gasp* how could she?!) like they’re a terminal disease or something that weakens her character with love: obviously, ridiculous. The constant narrative of marriage being an economic proposition is also vexing: may have had a slight credence back then, when there were not as many opportunities for women in the workforce (thankfully, changed in modern society so that any job can be done by either or both) – but problematic in today’s society where it’s no longer needed and seemingly plants seeds in young girls’ minds (that will inevitably be watching) that gold-digging is a necessity, virtue, or even right owed to them – when it’s stealing/parasitism off someone else’s money and the opposite of feminism in thinking to find, lure, and gold-dig a rich man out of his money instead of working hard and making your own. Finally, of course by nature of it being an umpteenth remake of a film/novel, it has other works to lean on/collage for a better product and is thus easier than a truly original, first-time film like many other in the Oscars landscape this year.

Conclusion

A Sisterhood Tale Beyond Its Predecessors & Kin

A Warm, Saccharine, Poignant canvas Of Feminine Softness, Victorian elegance, & Top-Tier Cinematic Pedigree

Overall, Greta Gerwig’s 2019 Little Women is a masterwork of sisterhood, femininity, and Victorian-era elegance brought to life by some of the best cinematic pedigree this year. A warm, saccharine, poignant canvas of feminine softness, Victorian elegance, legendary cast of Saoirse-led actresses, & sweeping score of virtuoso passion & vibrancy juxtaposing a rarified air of adapted screenplays by the impeccable Greta Gerwig – going beyond the story itself to its author and gender experience that will (and should) be a definitive film for many young girls growing up as a one-two punch with 2017’s Wonder Woman for the ages. Brava, Greta Gerwig. Brava.

Official CLC Score: 9.1/10