First thing I’ll say in this is perhaps sacrilegious: never before have I read the book or seen any adaptations of it on screen or stage. So this 2019’s Little Women is my first introduction to it which is why I went into it completely blind and with no expectations. The film was a major surprise as it’s such a good time and clearly cohesive piece of filmmaking. I had seen Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird, and there’s a pretty visible through-line between them even besides the choice of actors.
It’ll be really hard to talk about some of the actors in a second while not saying anything about others. The cast from front to back is an exceptional unit that would easily crumble in hands of a less certain director. It’s a delight to see scene after scene where the opposing actors continue to match each other’s level while also revealing more about the characters. Saoirse Ronan (as Jo) leads the movie with the same star-quality as she did in Lady Bird, portraying Jo as an ambitious but conflicted young woman. Timothée Chalamet (Laurie) on the other hand gets here the same quality of material to work with as he gets in his lead roles, in Lady Bird he was pretty undeveloped. Florence Pugh (Amy) has definitely much different character to play as she has had in her other projects, Amy’s quirkiness mixed with fury comes across well in her performance. Louis Garrel (Friedrich) stands out in a small but important role in relation to others’ storylines but that isn’t a surprise as everyone has great chemistry with each other on screen.
Gerwig’s directing seems even more refined now where as in Lady Bird her screenplay shone brighter. Again, I haven’t seen other adaptations but what was especially striking were the scenes where the whole March family was in one room (with or without the dad who is played by Bob Odenkirk). Everyone was placed for the viewer to see and had their voices heard. Alexandre Desplat’s score became increasingly bigger and crucial as the story unraveled, thundering gloriously in the last third in scenes with little to no dialogue. It was nice to see that while it started out as being just typical period drama compositions, it grew out of that along with the characters as they also grew. One thing that felt less realised (don’t know if this is how it’s in the book) was the structure where the time jumps occur quite randomly. It made the connection to characters and their journey feel less exciting while also making me distanced from the dialogue for a minute as I tried to understand where we are in the timeline.
Smileys: Whole cast’s performance, directing, score, characterisation
I wonder if neither Ronan and Chalamet get to be heartbroken in the next film in Gerwig Cinematic Universe.