Yes, Little Women Is That Good

Greta Gerwig’s Adaptation of this Literary Classic is a Must-Watch

Alexis Larsen and James Carlisle

Little Women, released on December 25, 2019, is a phenomenal film which illustrates the struggles, sacrifices, and growing pains of a family of young women during the Civil War. The film is the seventh adaptation of the 1868 novel of the same title by Louisa May Alcott.

The film follows a family of four sisters as they confront their struggles to find love, respect, and their place in the world while withstanding the Civil War, family matters, and poverty. The lead protagonist and second eldest sister, Joesphine ‘Jo’ March (Saoirse Ronan), strived to differ from the nineteenth century gender normalities by supporting herself with her writing rather than finding financial support through marriage. While growing up, Jo gained the friendship and caught the eye of neighbor Theodore ‘Laurie’ Laurence (Timothee Chalamet), a young bachelor and benefactor of his grandfather, the wealthy James Laurence (Chris Cooper). Oldest sister, Margaret ‘Meg’ March (Emma Watson) dreamed of marrying into fabulous wealth but after learning the reality of wealth she realizes the importance of love and family. Elizabeth ‘Beth’ March (Eliza Scanlen) was the introverted and musically inclined third sister who became infected with scarlet fever. The youngest sister, Amy (Florence Pugh), was the bratty youngest sibling with an exceptional talent for art. While the sister’s father (Bob Odenkirk) was away fighting in the Civil War, their mother, Marmee March (Laura Dern) took the role as the head of the household and helped bring joy into the house while they lived in poor circumstances.

The casting of the movie is phenomenal. Ronan’s portrayal of Jo stands out as the most mature, authentic performance of her career to date. She convincingly depicts a character who struggles for independence and dignity in a world that pressures her to sell her soul. Watson’s performance as Meg also brought newfound maturity to her career, especially considering the fact that her past roles consisted of Disney princesses and young wizards. Pugh feels slightly out of place as Amy, the youngest of the March sisters, mainly because Beth is played by Scanlen, who is three years younger than Pugh. It’s a very minor nitpick, however, it takes from the authenticity of her performance. Meanwhile, Scanlen flawlessly plays the role of Beth, the most innocent and pure of the March sisters. Dern is a near-perfect fit for Marmee. She played the supportive and loving mother of the sisters exactly how we imagined her. Meryl Streep is also tailor-made for the role of Aunt March, who serves as a foil to the rest of the March family by encouraging the sisters to prioritize money over individuality. Each role is played in honest, convincing fashion, perfectly complementing the brilliant vision of director Greta Gerwig.

The costuming was done brilliantly. The dresses worn by the sisters were both beautifully made but fit both the theme and personality of the scene. Jo was often seen wearing outfits similar to that of early radicals with no corset which allowed her to better move around, including vests, pants, and military jackets. In contrast, Amy was typically found wearing more fancy and elaborate dresses, especially while on her trip to Paris with Aunt March. Though, the sister’s hair was easily one of the most eye catching features of the women. In each scene, the girls sported some kind of unique hair styling such as complex braids or curls. Paired with the scene of Jo burning off some of Meg’s hair with a curling rod, the sister’s hair tells it’s own story of sisterhood and kinship. It can easily be imagined that the sisters would do each other’s hair and help one another prepare for the day’s events.

This rendition of Little Women stands out from past adaptations due to their focus on Jo’s ending motives. In the 1994 Little Women, the film’s ending focused on Jo falling in love and getting married to German Professor, Friedrick Bhaer. Rather in the 2019 version, Jo’s marriage to Bhaer (Louis Garrel) was placed on the back burner, while Jo’s book publication took the forefront, an event she dreamed about throughout her life.

The themes of Little Women teach girls empowerment and reflect the struggle to maintain a sense of self-respect in a world that discourages it. We get to see four very different girls grow up into adulthood, each with their own unique ambitions and dreams. Most specifically, Jo pursues a life of writing and desires to financially support herself through her literary pursuits rather than by marriage, something rarely seen at that time. “Our protagonist deals with themes still relevant in our times like personal independence, work, poverty, societal, gender, familial expectations and pressures, the social and economic cost of duty and sacrifice, and what happens when you strive to make your own path,” said English teacher Alicia Cordero. 

No matter your personal circumstances, “everyone can relate to somebody in some way. You can relate to each of the four girls in a way,” said English teacher Sarah Kiyak. The characters each undergo relatable trials, which even though the film took place in the nineteenth century, are easily related to today.

This is a coming of age story. A story that should be encouraged to read, not just girls, but for everyone. All of the characters teach lessons of struggles, dreams, and growth, all of which are essential to growing up. “The book is really good for middle school [students], but even if you are in high school and you have never read it, you should pick it up,” said Kiyak.

Regardless of your age, gender or occupation, Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women is a must-watch. “Everyone should go see it,” said Cordero. “It is that good.”