MATTHEWS, NC— In an age of sequels, prequels, and retelling of stories, I am frequently wary walking into the movie theatre, worried that the new versions will butcher the old, dear ones I hold close to my heart.
This feeling was no different as, popcorn in hand, I sank into my seat on Christmas Day to see Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig.
However, my wariness was not needed as the combination of the impressive inventiveness and well-known warmth of the movie dazzled me.
Little Women is a masterpiece for the inventiveness displayed through its timeline, costuming, performances, and themes.
An adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name, the movie follows the four March sisters as they come of age in the midst of 19th century gender, class, and societal norms. Director Greta Gerwig thrills those familiar with the plot by deconstructing the timeline and patching it back up in a zig-zagging pattern.
Gerwig’s directorial vision jumps between the character’s past and present reality and was criticized for being confusing to plot newcomers. A.O . Scott, chief film critic for The New York Times, said the “chronological shuffling jolts the story awake and nudges the viewer to pay close attention.”
Gerwig is not afraid to challenge the audience to keep up with the film version of the story and “work a little,” as Scott puts it.
Whether a scene in the past or the present, the atmosphere is thoughtful. Helen O’Hara, film journalist from Empire, described the aurora as, “warm but never wishy-washy, cozy without being cutesy.”
While the movie stays true to its 19th century roots, it doesn’t feel like a period piece, partly because of the artful costuming that feels so natural.
Without corsets or hoops skirts, an intentional choice by Gerwig, the actors are able to move freely and naturally. Gerwig said “ [the costuming is] so embedded in filmmaking and character that it never draws attention to itself, but is always excellent.”
The costuming exhibits such attention to detail that each of the four sisters has a distinct color associated with them: Jo is red, Amy is blue, Meg is green and violet, and Beth, brown and pink. Jo and Laurie can also be seen frequently swapping clothing, wearing the other’s vests, scarves, and hats; this minute detail inventively illustrates their interchangeable connection to one another.
Along with the movie’s literal plot twisting and costume mastery, Little Women is a hit for its brilliant display of characters.
The movie mixes the excitement of fresh, upcoming actors such as Timotheé Chalamet and Florence Pugh with the well-known and loved actors like Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, and Saorise Ronan.
The result is a grand slam of talented acting.
The characters the actors are playing, specifically the four sisters, are given attention they haven’t been given since the book. Each of the sisters is given not only a voice, but also given dignity. This is a revelation for primarily Amy March, a long time literary enemy, as the audience understands and resonates with her motives.
Amy is played by Florence Pugh with, “a perpetual pout and far more gravitas than she’s been given in the past,” said Ann Hornaday, chief film critic of The Washington Post.
Lastly, Little Women is spectacular for the themes it portrays.
The movie opens with Jo March, an aspiring writer, having moved away to New York City, but returning home— back to the longings of the past and the bittersweet reality of the present—to find herself, her creativity, and her voice, and Jo’s journey inspires us to do the same.
An ode to memories and childhood, everything about Little Women makes it a masterpiece and a worthy addition to everyone’s “must watch” list.