Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours
After the success of Greta Gerwig’s debut film, Lady Bird (2017), I was pleased to find her directing again with a tried and true classic, Little Women (2019). This movie isn’t new or its content original by any means (this is the seventh film adaptation after all). However, Gerwig has managed to give it a poignancy and relevance to today’s issues while still maintaining an apparent loyalty to the period. It probably helped that Gerwig had tons of acting talent along for this film, including collaborators from her last film: Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet. In the end, I found this to be perhaps my most favorite adaptation of this classic piece of literature.
Where Gerwig shines in this film is her ability to use flashbacks and dueling timelines to show the contrast and growth of the characters in stark moments of brilliance. My one qualm is that this technique was perhaps used a little too liberally, which meant I lost track of which timeline was which a few times. Otherwise, the moments that paralleled the lives of these four girls from Massachusetts were played to maximum effect and done with cinematic artistry that should make this version the standard.
I also appreciated the slight meta nature of the framing of the story, the superb classical music, and the beautiful set design. Still, it all pales in comparison to the actors. Aside from the ones already mentioned, there were standout performances by Florence Pugh (my favorite), Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Chris Cooper, and Meryl Streep (doing what Meryl Streep does). The best moments are the soliloquies about how successful writing isn’t necessarily good writing, the economics of marriage, and the struggle to be an independent woman when it’s also necessary to be wanted and loved by someone else.
Greta Gerwig proving she’s a master director, I give Little Women 4.5 stars out of 5.