‘Little Women’ on the big screen should not be missed

January 10, 2020

“Little Women” was written by Louisa May Alcott 150 years ago, and her novel has been passed down generation after generation due to its relevant themes and relatable characters. Now the story has been brought to life as a major motion picture, written and directed by Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”). The story follows the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy—as they grow up and traverse society along their distinctly separate paths. 

The movie was everything I could’ve wanted and it should be known that I went in with the bar set pretty high—which is always a dangerous choice—but I was not in any way disappointed. I had a lot of hopes for this movie, the trailers looked great and the cast, including Meryl Streep and Emma Watson, is seriously star-studded. So yes, I went in expecting to be dazzled and dazzled I was! My expectations were also heightened for more personal reasons, as I am one of four daughters and I truly wanted the movie to do the story of four sisters justice since it’s what I’ve known. 

And it does! The movie portrayed the relationship between sisters beautifully, as they fight fiercely with one another—like any group of siblings would—but more importantly love each other even more fiercely. This resonated with me because as any person with siblings knows, your siblings will be the ones to make you the most irate, yet they are also the ones you love the most, more than anything else in this world. The March sisters in the movie portrayed this complex relationship perfectly from comforting one another in one scene to wrestling one another to the ground in the next.

The movie also tackled some more serious themes, addressing problems that were prevalent 150 years ago and are still present today; for example, gender equality, specifically in the workplace. When Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) goes to sell her story to a newspaper, the publisher, Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts), says that typically they would pay anywhere from $25 to $30 for similar work, but for Jo’s story they would pay her $20. There was nothing different about the content of Jo’s work, an obvious dig at inequality in the workplace on the basis of sex. This is still a controversial topic today as women are still paid less than men for doing the same job. 

Of course, the movie portrayed the inequalities present in society due to gender in other more overt ways, like having Amy March (Florence Pugh) go off about how marriage for women is truly a financial agreement and not something to be glorified, or showing Jo lament about how society looks at women as objects only suited for marriage and having children. These scenes in the movie were so significant not only because the words hold so much truth but also because the actresses delivered their lines with such conviction and passion. Plus, these societal stereotypes about women haven’t been fully abolished even today. Yes, “Little Women” was written 150 years ago, but it has endured for so long because the issues remain prevalent, with the cause of the problems so tightly woven into our society’s culture.   

I’m a sucker for details, and this movie paid such close attention to the details I was stunned. If you didn’t know, Louisa May Alcott actually wrote “Little Women” about her own life, with a few embellishments here and there. Earlier this year, I visited Louisa May Alcott’s house (which is not too far away from Brandeis) and it was clear from the film that the director, Greta Grewig, did her research when creating the set. The March’s house in the film was accurate to the house in which the Alcotts actually resided. Also, in the Alcotts house there were paintings and drawings by Amy March hung on the walls, and this decor was replicated in the set design of the March family house in the film. 

The acting was also stellar, the movie had me both laughing and in tears because you genuinely feel what the actors are trying to portray. I also loved the portrayal of Amy’s character because it differed from ways she is typically presented. Amy is the youngest of the March girls and she is the stereotype for everything that is awful about the youngest sibling. The movie kept Amy’s worst moments that prove she is a “typical” youngest sibling while not having that spoiled and bratty behavior encompass her entire character. The movie shows Amy’s talent and maturity as she ages while also showing how she struggles to get out of the shadow of her older sister, Jo. You see Amy try desperately to be her own person and she fights to not be second to Jo. In the audience, you can understand Amy’s character better, even if it’s still not right. In other adaptations of this story, Amy is written off as the bratty youngest child, but that is not what you get in this movie. Amy’s and Jo’s characters are connected and the reason they butt heads so often is because of how similar they are, with the intensity of their passion and ambition—they just want different things in life. The choice to make this connection between Amy and Jo was an excellent choice in writing and its execution was perfect.  

Would I recommend this to a friend? Absolutely. There was not a single thing I disliked about this movie. The casting is spot on, the acting is authentic, the story is relevant, you get the romance, you get the sadness, you get all of this while also having the satisfaction of knowing that the movie paid attention to the details and story it adapted.

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