Saturday, December 28, 2019

Little Women

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, Emma Watson, Laura Dern
Director: Greta Gerwig
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Rating: PG

*Some of the things I've alluded to in this review may be construed as spoilers.

Let me begin by stating my adoration of the 1994 film version of "Little Women," and my attachment to Winona Ryder as Jo and Christian Bale as Laurie. I'll also say that if any two actors today could have taken on these iconic roles, it's undoubtedly Saoirse and Timothee. My bar was so high for this film, and while I thought the movie was fine, I did have a few issues. It was too long for starters. But if you're a fan of the story, you'll enjoy this timely rendition of the film. It's a classic for a reason.

If you're new to the story, first of all, welcome to the world, but secondly, you might have trouble keeping up with the plot because of the numerous flashbacks and flash forwards. The primary way Director Greta Gerwig let the audience know if we were in the past or present is by the color of the film. The flashbacks used bright, colorful, rich tones, while present day was more gray and dreary. I would have appreciated more physical appearance changes to differentiate the seven years past. The 1994 film used a different actress to portray Amy, who we meet at age 12, versus age 19, when we follow her through Paris. Florence Pugh, while she does steal the film as Amy, looks exactly the same the entire time.

I also think all this back and forth hurt the audience's opportunity to bond appropriately with the characters. Jo and Laurie's relationship didn't seem nearly as strong as Amy and Laurie's, because we get much more screen time with the latter two. The climactic scene when Jo rejects Laurie did not come across as devastating as it should, because we've already seen a connection between Amy and Laurie in the future. The film also shows Beth getting sick for the first and second times, at the same time, which made that plot line less emotional for me.

Gerwig is definitely in her element here, but what I thought should read as a boisterous family of loving sisters at times comes across as manic. I couldn't keep up with the insane amount of dialogue being thrown at me, but thankfully this pace slowed down. Gerwig also took more time to explore things that I didn't think were totally necessary and that were grazed over in the 1994 film (Meg as a debutante, Beth's bond with neighbor Mr. Laurence) but I did appreciate more time with Aunt March. Meryl Streep can do anything, and while the makeup made her look like a corpse, she brought a realistic humor to the role, encouraging the women to "marry well" since they won't be able to make any money for themselves.

This review is clearly very picky, because it is a story so near and dear to me. Was it necessary to remake this film again, 2 years after BBC released it as a mini-series? Maybe not, but it's as good a time as any. Jo argues that women have minds and souls and should do more than just fall in love and get married, but then breaks down in tears saying she is so incredibly lonely. It's a dilemma faced by many young women today, proving that this is a timeless tale. It's hard not to love this story and these characters, but the 1994 version will always be my favorite.

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