Little Women is one of the big Christmas releases this year and I’ve been looking forward to seeing this for a long time. It’s a film that caused Alex and I, at the end, to turn to each other and state pretty much the same reactions: well-acted, beautifully shot and scored… terrible structure.
Alex and I both have to admit we have never read Little Women or even seen any of the other film adaptations (yes, we know, that’s bad). As newcomers to this story, the film is downright confusing. Gerwig chooses a non-linear structure for her adaptation that certainly does provide interesting contrast that gives some scenes in the second and third acts quite an emotional punch. However, because of the way this structure works, the first hour constantly feels like setup, and it is hard to follow. Due to the lack of apparent age difference between the characters in these timelines, and the fact that many of the locations are the same, it’s often hard to tell where scenes fit chronologically. We know the time has changed, because costumes are different, but because of the way Gerwig flashes back and forth and all over the place, it is really hard to follow.
I just got finished bitching about how The Rise of Skywalker included many elements that will only work for people who have read various comic books or expanded universe novels, and now I have to say that this film is probably more rewarding for people who read the novel upon which it is based. The story is not presented in a way that is easy for newcomers to access. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, but it makes it one that has potentially limited its appeal and its important messages to generations of viewers who have already discovered this work. It’s possible Gerwig chose to do this to provide viewers with a different approach, since this is a story that has been told on film a lot already. It’s an admirable choice but it doesn’t always work.
With that out of the way, there was a lot I enjoyed about this film and it will probably cause me to go read Louisa May Alcott’s book. The cast is great and not one actor seemed out of place. I especially enjoyed Florence Pugh as Amy March, but other fine performances are given by Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlen, Meryl Streep (of course) and Chris Cooper. The cast is much larger than that though and everyone does a fine job.
Alexandre Desplat brings a wonderful score to the story as well. If he isn’t my favorite composer right now, he is most certainly one of the most versatile. The costumes are also stunning and Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography uses an autumn tint in every frame that emphasizes the story’s emotional warmth.
Little Women is a little more of a shaky win from the director of Lady Bird, but a win nonetheless. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
On a bit of a programming note, we have a lot of upcoming posts before the end of year. We’re still working on a Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker spoiler-filled discussion with our contributors, and then Alex and I will list our favorite films of 2019. Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays!