It is a truth universally acknowledged that nothing lives up to the hype. However, Little Women was an enjoyable film showcasing Jo March (Soairse Ronan) coming of age into a mature writer. Yes I know I’m quoting Pride and Prejudice don’t @ me.
Little Women and Good Wives
Little Woman is an adaptation of the novels Little Women and Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott, directed by Greta Gerwig. It centers on the relationship between four sisters and the trial and tribulations of living in the 1860s USA, which let’s just say wasn’t a good time for anyone. Jo wants to be a writer; Amy wants to be a painter; Beth is a saint and Meg wants to be a mother.
As someone who has never read the book or seen any of the numerous film and TV adaptations, I was engrossed in Amy’s (played by Florence Pugh) storyline. Her character development from spoilt brat to a grown woman who was ready to make sacrifices is astounding. I know a lot of people don’t like her because she burned Jo’s manuscript, but she was 10 give the kid a break! Her infatuation for Laurie played by this generation’s dreamboat Timothee Chalmette was cute. No wonder she’s received an Oscar nomination for best-supporting actress. Last year’s Midsummer, Little Women, and this year’s upcoming Black Widow show that Florence Pugh is on track for a promising career. She stole the show for me.
The costumes were designed by Jacqueline Durran and the cinematography was done by Yorick Le Saux. Together they produced a set that looked like it was painted by a renaissance impressionist. They highlighted the innocence and freedom of childhood and the devastation that comes when you lose that special period of your life when you don’t have to worry about student debt and the realisation that you are officially going to be an adult, and there is no turning back time. This makes Amy’s storyline even more heartfelt and poignant since she realises that she has to give up painting to marry rich because that was the only way women of her time could make a living.
Given the film’s setting of the 1860s when the civil war was going on and fight for the emancipation of slaves and the abolishment of slavery, one would wonder why no mention apart from a throwaway line by Marmee played Laura Dern is given to these grand historical events. To which my answer is that’s the point. Little Women is a story dramatising the domestic sphere that women in the 1860s were confined in. It shows that women’s stories are worth telling in a time when women didn’t have a voice apart from a few notable exceptions.
Pride and Prejudice.
In that regards Little Women is quite similar to Pride and Prejudice. Both stories have been disparaged and not given the credit they deserved. Women’s stories have been viewed as lesser for most of history. You don’t have to write bloody war scenes to be a war novel. Highlighting the effects of war and people’s attempt to carry on living is just as valid which both Pride and Prejudice and Little Women do in abundance.
This is why Greta Gerwig’s ending is a fitting tribute to Louisa May Alcott. She gives the viewer a postmodernist end in which Jo does not end up with Professor Bhaer played by Louis Garrel. Instead, the original ending of the novel is the ending of Jo’s novel that she has been writing in the film. The scene where Jo is negotiating for the rights of her book with the publisher is supposed to mirror Louisa’s fraught negations with her publisher. Louisa herself did not want Jo to marry anyone and was forced to write the ending on the behest of her publisher. Greta Gerwig’s film ending completely does justice to the story. Gerwig has stated that she wanted to explore the idea of the author in her film. I think the ending perfectly encapsulates that theme of wanting control of your story, but having to make changes to make it commercial. The conflict of Art vs. Money is something that many creative’s have to deal with and seeing Jo go through that struggle, making concessions to her story, writing torrid gothic novels to make ends meet, but still fighting to retain integrity as an artist is realistic and painfully relatable.
So is Little Women worth the hype? No, but in my opinion nothing is. However, Little Women Is a heart-warming well-crafted film that will make you wonder why you ever wished to be an adult in the first place.