In 2017, actress Greta Gerwig made quite a splash with her solo directorial debut, Lady Bird. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Gerwig herself.
However, the young writer/director did have a bit of a homefield advantage when it came to the creation and filming of Lady Bird. The story was largely autobiographical. Gerwig had years to polish the unproduced screenplay, and she shot the film in her hometown of Sacramento, California. She hit the ball out of the park, but it was teed up nicely for her to do just that.
Being a big fan of Lady Bird, I’ve been waiting to see if Gerwig can avoid the sophomore slump. With Little Women, she leaves the world of small personal indie films behind and tackles a much-beloved literary classic set in the 1860’s. She has a bigger cast, bigger budget, and bigger story, and I’m pleased to report that Gerwig once again proves herself to be a
talented screenwriter and director. She may not find herself as a Best Director nominee this time around, but she just might walk away with Best Adapted Screenplay on Oscar night. Her primary competition will be Steven Zaillian for The Irishman.
The story of Little Women is well-known. Jo, Amy, Meg and Beth March are sisters living under the supervision of their mother while their father is away during the final days of the American Civil War.
Jo is the independent sister who dreams of being an author and bristles at the idea that she needs a man to make her way through life. Amy and Meg are the more traditional sisters who have their sights set on marrying well, and Beth is the sickly sister who contracted Scarlet Fever at a young age and still suffers from its effects.
Saoirse Ronan plays Jo with the same plucky spirit we saw from her in Lady Bird and the 2015 film Brooklyn. Timothee Chalamet is Laurie, the son of the March’s well-to-do neighbor and the object of the sisters’ affections.
With his unruly hair hanging in his face, Chalamet does his best to channel the roguish charm of James Dean, but he doesn’t have any of Dean’s gravitas to go with his boyish good looks. Each time he’s on screen, the film threatens to stall out. I’m sure teenagers across the globe will disagree with me, but I found him to be the weak link in the cast.
The standout performance belongs to Florence Pugh as Amy. Pugh was a knockout earlier this year in Ari Aster’s film Midsommar about the culture and rituals of a strange Scandinavian cult. She outshines her castmates once again in Little Women to become one of the breakthrough performers of 2019.
Little Women is a well-written, old-fashioned movie that will appeal to audiences of all ages. If you want Hollywood to make smart, live-action family friendly films, you need to support Little Women with your box office dollars. The film comes to home video on April 7.