By ANA-SOFIA MUÑOZ
These Little Women are marching their way to the top.
On Dec. 25, 2019, Columbia Pictures released the historical drama Little Women. The film follows the March sisters Beth (Eliza Scanlen), Amy (Florence Pugh), Meg (Emma Watson) and Jo (Saoirse Ronan) in their various ventures to make a living as women in the late 19th century.
The film, directed by Greta Gerwig, is the most recent big screen adaptation of the beloved novel by Louisa May Alcott. Arguably, Gerwig’s take on the classic story is the best by far, on par with today’s modern values regarding the various ambitions of women and their capability to succeed through their various passions. Although the storyline is set in the 19th century, it encapsulates a timeless tale of the struggles that women often face in attempting to balance family, relationships and navigating their careers.
Evidently, one of the film’s most prominent features is the various changes that Gerwig made to the original story. In particular, the ambiguity of Jo’s story caught the attention of many avid Little Women fans. Unlike in other adaptations, in which Jo is married off to an older man, Gerwig’s version allows viewers to interpret whether she married or remained independent.
Throughout the film, Saoirse Ronan expertly portrays the stubborn and impulsive Jo by emphasizing all of her unique character traits. Typically, she is known as the most defiant of the March sisters, actively subverting the strict expectations for women at the time. Ronan’s take on the character showed her to be three-dimensional, revealing a softer side to Jo through a refreshing declaration of heartache in the midst of pursuing her ambitions. Particularly, Ronan delivers a heart-wrenching monologue proclaiming her loneliness, in a now-famed scene that truly exemplifies the film’s objective of demonstrating the many facets of hard-working women.
Additionally, Ronan is not the only actor who shines in the film; her co-star Florence Pugh also plays her character in a way that shows an adept understanding of her complexity.
Pugh, who plays Amy, took a distinctive approach to her character as compared to both the novel and other adaptations. While Amy is often shown to be vain and spiteful, in this film audiences see her growth as well as her struggles being the youngest sister. Pugh portrays Amy in a much gentler light, conveying her sometimes snide behavior as stemming from adolescent immaturity rather than malicious intent. Similarly to Jo, Pugh’s rendition of Amy incorporates more modern values relating to women. For example, Amy maintains her femininity while simultaneously going after her dream to be an artist, a notable characteristic when contrasted to Jo’s signature tomboy style. Consequently, these varied depictions of ambitious women allow more viewers to relate because they are offered a more diverse range of characters to see themselves in.
Furthermore, the film’s set and costume design were especially commendable. The wardrobe was very complex and detail-oriented; each piece effortlessly fit into the fashion of the time period. Both the set design and multitude of beautifully filmed shots created a comforting setting for this classic. When paired together, viewers were easily transported back to the time of the film, as even the most minute background elements—from scenery to post-Civil War architecture and wardrobe— were obviously taken into careful consideration. Overall, the genuine craftsmanship behind creating the film does not go unnoticed and can be seen in every aspect of the production.
Ultimately, Gerwig’s Little Women far surpasses expectations and will likely be known as one of the most memorable interpretations of this acclaimed tale. The film reimagines the story in a way that today’s audiences are much more likely to connect with. The movie is more than deserving of the several Academy Award nominations and positive reviews that it has received, earning high praise from critics worldwide.
While these women may be little, the impact of showcasing their capabilities in this modern light will surely leave a big impression for generations to come.