Monday, December 30, 2019
Little Women (2019 film)
Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women is the story about the lives of four sisters who embark on different lives as one of them aspires to be a writer as well as trying to find herself during and after the American Civil War. Written for the screen and directed by Greta Gerwig, the film is a coming-of-age drama that explore four young women trying to find themselves as well as their roles in lives as well as rely on each other. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, and Meryl Streep. Little Women is a ravishing and vivacious film from Greta Gerwig.
The film revolves around four sisters living in Concord, Massachusetts during the American Civil War as their father is away as they all have different ambitions and dreams that they want to do while eventually finding their own identities in the years after the war. It’s a film that play into a world where women are expected to have certain roles for the world yet one of them wants to write while another wants to be an artist while another sister wants to belong and be part of society and another sister just wants to simply play piano. Greta Gerwig’s screenplay doesn’t aim for a traditional narrative but rather a somewhat non-linear narrative that is more deconstructive in order to explore the four March sisters in Margaret “Meg” (Emma Watson), Josephine “Jo” (Saoirse Ronan), Elizabeth “Beth” (Eliza Scanlen), and the youngest Amy (Florence Pugh).
The narrative opens with Jo trying to sell her stories and hoping to get published yet she chooses to remain anonymous as a writer and have her work be re-edited for money that she uses to help her family back in Concord while she’s in New York teaching at a boarding house. Much of the narrative have the sisters often looking back at certain moments of their lives during the final years of the American Civil War where their father (Bob Odenkirk) is serving for the Union as they live with their mother Marmee (Laura Dern) and family maid Hannah (Jayne Houdyshell) whom they consider family than a servant. Gerwig’s script does focus largely on Jo yet she does give a lot of considerable attention to the bratty but artistic Amy, the proper Meg, and the shy Beth. While Amy and Meg are given arcs that play into their development, Beth’s role is more at the center as she represents the best of the sisters while being a source of comfort to the elderly neighbor Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper) through her piano playing while his grandson Theodore “Laurie” (Timothee Chamalet) becomes a friend of the sisters.
Gerwig’s direction is definitely rapturous in not just its presentation but also in some of the choices she makes in the way she presents the characters and their arcs. Shot largely on location in Boston as well as Concord, Massachusetts and parts of Harvard including the Arnold Arboretum as Paris, Gerwig recreates the world of mid-19th Century Massachusetts as there’s some wide shots of the locations while Gerwig would also use medium shots to get a look into Concord in the mid-19th Century and how it would change when Jo was living in the town to her return years later to help the ailing Beth. The usage of dolly tracking shots for a scene where Jo dances with Laurie outside of a party that Meg is attending as there is this air of energy and looseness that makes it so compelling as it play into Jo’s friendship with Laurie. Gerwig also creates matching compositions in the way to create shifting transitions where it would focus on a character from a certain moment in time to then where that person is years later as they reflect on the past.
Gerwig’s direction also has this atmosphere to the period while emphasizing on different seasons to help play into the mood of a scene as well as the journey that a character takes. Amy would be in Paris trying to learn how to paint like the greats while dealing with Laurie’s presence who is trying to woo her while Meg is in Concord trying to be a good wife but also wanting to fit in with the other women in Concord. The scenes of Jo with Beth play into their relationship but also how important Beth was to the family as someone who really did a lot more behind the scenes as well as encourage Jo to not stop writing. Gerwig would also find a way to wrap things up as it relate to Jo eventually finding herself as well as what she wants as a writer and as a woman along with her sisters finding their own identities with the people they care about around them. Overall, Gerwig crafts an evocative and intoxicating film about four sisters trying to find themselves in mid-19th Century America.
Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux does incredible work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural blue lighting for some of the scenes in the winter as well as to create a mood along with some naturalistic photography in some of the daytime interiors and usage of candles at night. Editor Nick Houy does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts, montages, and slow-motion as it help play into the drama and some of the humor. Production designer Jess Gonchor, with set decorator Claire Kaufman and supervising art director Chris Farmer, does excellent work with the look of the March home as well as the Laurence estate as well as the home of Aunt March (Meryl Streep) as there’s a lot of great detail that play into the homes and how it reflect those characters. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran is amazing for its costumes in the design of the dresses that the women wear as it so much detail that play into the personalities of the characters with the clothes that the men wear throughout the film.
Visual effects supervisor Blake Goedde does terrific work with the visual effects as it is largely set dressing to help create the look of some of the places the characters go to in its exterior. Sound editors Skip Lievsay and Paul Urmsom do superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the parties as well as the scenes on the beach and the pub scenes in New York. The film’s music by Alexandre Desplat is phenomenal for its rich and lush orchestral score that help play into the drama and some of its livelier moments as it is a highlight of the film as the music soundtrack also feature some classical pieces and traditional music pieces of the time.
The casting by Kathy Driscoll and Francine Maisler is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Maryanne Plunkett as the boarding house landlord Mrs. Kirke, Abby Quinn as a young society woman in Annie Moffat, Dash Barber as Amy’s beau Fred Vaughn, Sasha Frovola as the ailing German immigrant Mrs. Hummel, Jayne Houdyshell as the March’s longtime maid Hannah whom the girls treat as family, Bob Odenkirk as Father March, and Tracy Letts as the newspaper publisher Mr. Dashwood who is baffled by Jo’s stories as he reluctantly publishes them. James Norton is terrific as Laurie’s tutor John Brooke who would become Meg’s husband as he is concerned with her desire to fit in despite their lack of finances while Louis Garrel is superb as Friedrich Bhaer as a European literature professor who befriends Jo in New York while gives her some serious criticism about her work.
Chris Cooper is fantastic as Mr. Laurence as Laurie’s grandfather who laments over the loss of his daughter many years ago as he sees Beth as someone close to his daughter due to her love for the piano. Timothee Chalamet is excellent as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence as the grandson of Mr. Laurence who befriends Jo and the March sisters as he helps them be part of their plays as well as observe everything else while later falling for Amy in Paris. Meryl Streep is brilliant as Aunt March as Father March’s older sister who is rich while always offering the March girls advice about life and such as she often brings a lot of humor to her role. Laura Dern is amazing as Marmee as the March family matriarch who is always trying to bring some guidance and warmth to her daughters as well as someone who is also willing to help no matter how little her family have.
Eliza Scanlen is incredible as Elizabeth “Beth” March as the third older sister of the family who is shy as she prefers to play the piano to entertain others while is also the most observant as she would fall ill twice through scarlet fever where she would give Jo the motivation to keep on writing. Emma Watson is remarkable as Margaret “Meg” March as the eldest of the four sisters who wants to fit in and wear the finest clothes as she also acts in Jo’s plays but wants to have a family as she later deals with the desires to conform as well as be a good wife and mother to her children. Florence Pugh is phenomenal as Amy March as the youngest of the four sisters who is wild and bratty but also manages to be caring as she later goes to France to learn to be an artist as she copes with her work as well as her love life as she becomes unsure about Laurie. Finally, there’s Saoirse Ronan in a sensational performance as Josephine “Jo” March as the second oldest of the four sisters that wants to write and create stories while trying to stand out on her own as Ronan radiates with charisma as well as restraint to convey her own setbacks as it is a career-defining performance for Ronan.
Little Women is a tremendous film from Greta Gerwig that features top-notch performances from Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper, Timothee Chalamet, and Meryl Streep. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, Alexandre Desplat’s rapturous score, amazing set and costume design, and an inventive and compelling script. The film is definitely an adaptation that manages to be not just a fascinating character study and coming-of-age drama but also so much more in its take on identity, womanhood, and the dreams of these four sisters. In the end, Little Women is a magnificent film from Greta Gerwig.
Related: (Little Women (1917 film)) – (Little Women (1918 film)) – (Little Women (1933 film)) – (Little Women (1949 film)) – (Little Women (1994 film)) – (Little Women (2018 film))
Greta Gerwig Films: (Nights and Weekends) – Lady Bird
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