I think I’m going to have to start out this review of LITTLE WOMEN by defending myself in regards to my mediocre review of Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born last year. I complained that A Star Is Born’s praise was unwarranted because it was the 3rd remake, 4th adaptation of that story line, and didn’t really do much different than the three films before it. This is the 9th, that’s right, NINTH adaptation of Little Women, and getting about as much praise as A Star Is Born did last year. However, I am very much recommending Little Women as I enjoyed the entire 2 hour and 15 minute run time (didn’t feel that long at all) and in some parts thought it was absolutely wonderful. My defense of Little Women is three fold: 1. I have never read the novel. 2. I have never seen any of the previous 8 adaptations, even the Winona Ryder one. 3. The only knowledge I had of Little Women was when Joey reads it and gets emotional when Rachel gives him spoilers on the television show Friends. Had I still really liked this version if I had either A. read the book or B. watch any of or all of the previous adaptations? I still think so, and it is all probably in thanks to writer/director Greta Gerwig.
Most of you know how the story goes, so those of you that don’t, here’s my zany way of explaining things. The movie is about 4 girls, Jo (Saoirse Ronan) wants what women don’t get in that time period (American Civil War) which is women being successful and independent from men. Although she’s in love with the boy next door Laurie (Timothee Chalamet), she wants to do well on her own as a great writer. Then you got Meg (Emma Watson) who is fine with women’s roles at that time and just wants to get married to a rich dude and have a family. Then you have Amy (Florence Pugh) who wants the best of both worlds. To be in love and be successful on her own. Finally you have, Beth (Eliza Scanlen), who keeps to herself and she loves music and well…if you’ve seen that Friends episode or have seen any other adaptation of this film, you know how that ends. Yeah so, you know, without going into spoilers, even if four score, a book, and 8 adaptations ago, the women’s lives get complicated with life opportunities presented elsewhere, love, sister loyalties & betrayals, all mixed in with a father that has gone off to war, and a very pessimistic Aunt.
If anything I can probably guess that I could be spot on with, even though I haven’t read the book or seen any of the bazillion adaptations is the reason why this movie works is that writer/director Greta Gerwig makes this movie her own with out drastically changing anything, except for an expanded ending that actually toys with the audiences’ mind a little (I always enjoy that when it is done correctly, as it is here). When seeing previews for this, I was afraid it was going to be one of THOSE movies, like The Favorite, where the film takes place a long time ago, but it is mostly modern day Juno like dialogue. Thankfully, there are only one or two moments of that (involving Jo and Laurie) but they fit within the context of the film. From what I’ve been told, the main difference between this film and the others is that this movie plays with the concept of time. It goes back and forth where as the novel and other film adaptations are straight forward. I actually quite enjoyed the movies’ play on time, and Greta Gerwig uses parts already established in the book to let you know what point in time the film is. I had no trouble figuring out where the film took place with each scene and each time change. I don’t think the film playing straight forward would’ve worked as well on screen. Maybe would’ve been labeled as just “one of those” multiple copycat adaptations.
I don’t know how the dialogue is in the book, but in the movie it is very fluid and connective; quirky, but at the same time it felt real, as though they were really sisters spending a lot of time together and how they manage when they are apart. Gerwig does a tremendous job writing. Greta Gerwig also manages to flex her directing muscles after her first solo directing gig with Lady Bird two years ago. Greta Gerwig has already established herself as an actor’s director, but with this film, she shows she also has the chops to have a special eye behind the camera. Constantly the camera moves gracefully and uniquely from one room of the house to the other, where ever the sisters may be. Her outside shots, whether it be on a hilly plain or on the beach, has a nice expansive scope to take in all of the environment and make it fit within each and every frame. Before doing Lady Bird by herself, she usually co-wrote movies with Noah Baumbach, and then would let him directed while she starred in those film. Like Greenberg or Frances Ha. I do not care for her earlier work with him. I understand that they are still “together” (not married) and that they might compete with each other for Best Director at this year’s Oscars, but if I met her I would encourage her to keep doing these solo projects. I already think she is a better filmmaker after two films than her partner, who has made a shit ton of movies and who I only finally gave some props recently to his writing style and substance with this years Marriage Story. Never cared for any of his other movies. Greta, you can still love him and be with him, just maybe keep separation between that and work. Oh, and also, might’ve want to think about giving up acting. You are fine as an actress, but you are incredible with film making. Come on, show up Ben Affleck, who can’t fucking decide.
The acting in this movie is great. Soairse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, and Eliza Scanlan all get their moments to shine even though the latter two needed maybe just a little more screentime for me to care more about their characters, especially in regards to what happens with Beth. But don’t worry, I still felt all the feels you have to feel at the end of the movie if you are an actual human fucking being. There was only ONE moment that took me out of the film for two seconds, and this is my own personal shit, so don’t take this to heart, but when Bob Odenkirk shows up as the girls’ father, I was like, “oh he’s alive! It’s Saul Goodman.” I think Bob Odenkirk is an incredible actor and comedian, I just can’t see him in anything else without me thinking of Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. Not saying he should’ve get these opportunities for more serious roles, but unless his character does anything dramatically different, my brain will go straight to two of the greatest television shows of all time and that one character he’s been playing for so long, and it will take me out of anything else he happens to be in. Sorry, but it’s true. He’s fine here, but I was just waiting in the wings for him to deceive someone or screw over another character. **shrugs**
Anyway, yeah, I’m not going to get into the whole “men Academy Awards voters aren’t seeing this movie because it’s a girlie girl film and aren’t giving it fair attention” nonsense that the media is trying to conjure up. If that were the case (I guess I am getting into it), there would be a movie every year like that (there is always at least one or two “female” films nominated for Best Picture) and we’d hear the same song and dance at the end of each and every December. But we don’t hear that song and dance (we do with the “Oscars So White” though, which I’m sick of seeing). It’s all just fake controversy to get your ass into the theater. Look at Rotten Tomatoes, it’s in the 90s and if you look more than half of the reviews are coming from males. And I call bullshit, because I am male, and I have a penis, and I was really wanting to see this movie and was looking forward to it based on the cast and Greta Gerwig. So poop on that shit. It’s a very, very good movie that ANYONE can and probably will enjoy. This shitting on female empowerment films is honestly the work of trolls that have nothing else better to do with their days other than sit by their computers all day and jerk off to each and every negative comment or idea they post for all to see. Go and see Little Women. Whether man or woman, girl or boy, little man or little woman, it is a really well acted, well crafted, delightful and wonderful little film. Which means it ain’t so little after all.