Little Women (2019) (2019)
December 26, 2019 7:33 AM - Subscribe

Four sisters come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War.

With a powerhouse cast including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep, Greta Gerwig's film currently sits at 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Vulture review

A.V. Club Review

New Yorker Review

Bonus: We Are All Amy
posted by ominous_paws (58 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This was a pleasure to watch. It reminded me a little of the Pride & Prejudice film starring Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfayden—everything was beautifully shot and acted, the score was pretty, the costumes and sets perfect, but missing that extra something that separates a very good movie from a great one, at least to me. Sometimes it’s just nice to watch something enjoyable and comfortable, though.

This version went further than the 1994 one (which I still prefer overall, although maybe that’s nostalgia) in convincing me that Laurie would ever be rejected by Jo and then fall for Amy. Although that’s partly because Christian Bale as Laurie was irresistible and Chalamet seemed young and kind of unformed, like he barely knew himself, let alone Jo. I really liked the scene between Jo and Marmee discussing the difference between being loved and loving and the loneliness of wanting an ambitious life and holding out for someone who really gets you.
posted by sallybrown at 11:38 AM on December 26, 2019 [8 favorites]

I saw an advanced screening a few weeks ago. I was hoping I'd like it, and I did.

I hadn't actually been a Gerwig fan before this, nor particularly a big fan of Saoirse Ronan's (Jo). That has changed.

The nonlinear storytelling added to the emotional impact for me, although the cuts to new scenes seemed to speed up almost a bit too quickly at a point in the middle.

The production had been on my radar the last year due to the youngest actors, Eliza Scanlen (Beth) and Florence Pugh (Amy), whom I knew were two to watch. Scanlen and Emma Watson (Meg) are fine, but somewhat secondary to the face-off between Jo and Amy. And after all the infamous strife between those two, I love a scene toward the end where Amy encourages Jo, and makes a strong meta statement about the importance of women's stories.

Meryl Streep is also amusing as Aunt March.

Despite all the attention to Pugh, this was Saoirse's movie IMO. There is one scene in particular that destroyed me. After the big tragedy, Jo is so lost. Her outpouring of feeling to her mother ends with such a sharp turn, a devastating line and line reading.

The one weak spot for me was Chalamet as the adult Laurie. At one point Amy sees him at a party in Paris. He enters drunkenly, a woman on each arm. They're portraying Laurie as a now older, dissolute man who'd been drinking and leching his way through Europe. But TC looked like a teen on his first bender. YMMV

However, I spent most of the movie with a lump in my throat, interspersed with laughing so loudly I missed a second laugh line following quickly.

So tl;dr - See it. And it deserves more awards love.
posted by NorthernLite at 11:59 AM on December 26, 2019 [8 favorites]

Saw it yesterday and loved it. I will always love the 1994 version as I saw it in the theater when I was 13 so it will always hold a particularly special place in my heart. I did really like the non-linear structure and the framing device, especially since there have been so many screen adaptations (including a PBS miniseries from last year). It's clear that a lot of love went into making this movie and I appreciate how lived in it felt. I also did really like that this adaptation chose to carefully and thoughtfully redress a wrong from the original source material (I won't specify here since it's early in the thread and I don't want to spoil it, yet).

I will need to see it again with subtitles to fully catch everything that I couldn't hear the first time around (although I know the story so well, there was no worries about being lost). It also didn't help that Star Wars was next door with t he volume cranked to 11 so my screening of Little Women had the distant sounds of space battle occurring throughout. But I also want the subtitles to catch all the lovely bits that were happening in the overlapping dialogues. I love the realism of that Altmanesque filmmaking, but it's hard to follow, sometimes, especially when you're hard of hearing.

I really hope the Oscars recognize Gerwig as a director since the Golden Globes didn't. Her work was incredible and after having watched a lot of interviews with her talking about the various choices she made as a director (as well as screenwriter), it's clear how well thought-out and planned this movie was.
posted by acidnova at 12:43 PM on December 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

One thing I loved that I forgot to mention—the lighting of some of the indoor scenes to look like firelight/candlelight was just beautiful, so warm. It conveyed the feeling between the sisters so well. There were a couple scenes with all the sisters where they went a bit overdramatic with the “we love each other so much!!!” (like the post-ankle-turning scene) but I did love them all laughing during the scene when they voted Laurie into the dramatic society.
posted by sallybrown at 12:50 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I was coaxed into seeing it yesterday, and ended up really liking it a lot. I admit to not knowing much about the production, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s beautifully filmed, and all the performances shine. I was especially taken by Laura Dern’s performance. She just was the mother. She inhabited the part so perfectly that she disappeared into it.

I was kicked out of the spell For a bit when Bob Oedenkirk shows up as the father toward the end. As good an actor as he is, it’s really hard not to hear Saul when he speaks. But, you accept it and get back into the story pretty quickly.

Definitely get out to see this one.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:43 PM on December 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

I loved it. The most charming and romantic treatise on economics I've seen in a long time. Period pieces are not usually my thing, but it felt so modern and alive.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 9:15 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Really enjoyed this. Even though the woman next to me at the theater drank a lot of wine and then bawled loudly and inconsolably with great, heaving sobs when Beth died.

My only real critique was Florence Pugh as the young Amy. She looked and sounded like a woman in her 20s and it was hard to see her as anything else. But of course as the adult Amy she (and Gerwig) really did something fantastic and new with the character that I loved.
posted by retrograde at 10:57 PM on December 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

I saw this yesterday and really loved it! I felt like it kept more of the authentically weird parts of the original book, like the fact that Beth has a doll which she insists on feeding at the table with everyone else. (also made me, as an autistic person, consider for the first time an interpretation of the character as neuroatypical, which I find really interesting.) acidnova, I have an idea what you are thinking of, but I'm not wholly sure; would you consider elaborating, given that the explicit guidance for FanFare threads is that spoilers are A-OK? I really want to have this discussion! I have some thoughts about the ending!
posted by Acheman at 6:04 AM on December 27, 2019 [9 favorites]

I have no problems discussing spoilery points, I just didn't want to do it when my comment was only the third one in the thread. But we're a little further down so I feel ok to explain further. I only call it a spoiler in that it diverged from the source material. To me, anything that stayed true to a 150-year-old book doesn't consitute a spoiler.

So the movie chose to have Jo not marry Friedrich but rather only have that marriage exist in the book Jo is writing and only at the insistence of the editor. I found it to be a lovely way to basically have your cake and eat it, too. The marriage exists in Jo's novel because it exists in the novel but that the "truth" was that Jo never wanted marriage and so she didn't actually marry Friedrich.

Gerwig has spoken about that change because Alcott never married or had children and felt forced to include things in the book that she didn't really want to. Alcott was also someone who fought to keep her copyright, which was something Gerwig deliberately added to the movie in honor of Alcott.
posted by acidnova at 9:29 AM on December 27, 2019 [19 favorites]

Feel OK to drop in to my own thread now just to say how much I enjoyed this. Such directing and performances - Gerwig seems to be on pure golden form right now.

As a non-book reader accompanying a lifelong book fan ("I like her!" "That's Amy, she's the one everybody hates") I realised I hadn't got much of a clue what was going on with the various endings, and enjoyed finding out what had been going on afterwards.

I don't think we were next to a showing of a Star War, but I'm pretty sure the film was underpinning all moments of quiet drama with a low sub-bass rumble. It wasn't as obnoxious as the ubiquitous Interception Brap, but it was about the one thing I wasn't sold on. The drama is strong enough, you don't need to prompt the audience like this!
posted by ominous_paws at 9:59 AM on December 27, 2019

Acheman, someone on Twitter brought up the possibility of Beth being neuroatypical.

The script became legally available online this week. I downloaded, but have only skimmed it. I got a kick out of the scene where Laurie tells Jo he and Amy married. After he refers to "my wife," before Jo's next line, the action directions simply read like:


The past is written in red typeface, the present in black. Then at the end, the sections are "Fiction?" in red and the present in black.

Which actually confuses me even more than in the theatre.

Also, just before the final shot of Jo, there are these scene directions:
(It describes the four young girls at play.)

I don't remember that shot in the final cut. Anyone else?
posted by NorthernLite at 10:44 AM on December 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

We saw it at the Angelika in NYC which always treats you the rumbling of subway trains as they pass.

More applause for Little Women than for The Rise of Skywalker - seen on the previous day.
posted by art.bikes at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

I generally liked this much better than the 1994 version--with the exception of Timothee Chalamet, perhaps, I thought the casting was much better (though nice cheat by now making Prof. Bhaer younger and hotter!). I thought that the film also was more fair to the other sisters, though it's still mostly the Jo and Amy show. Though I also agree with the earlier comment--this was the first time I viewed Beth and thought, "Huh, I wonder if she's neurodiverse?" I thought that was a really interesting take on her.

I really liked the parallels Gerwig brought out in Amy's and Jo's frustrations about not being able to make their own living, and Amy's speech to Laurie about why it was important to marry rich was really well delivered. I think that maybe I'm just too old to get Chalamet's appeal, but I agree with the earlier comment that while the girls all seemed older in the second half of the film, Chalamet seemed no different from the Laurie we first met--and sure, some of that might be the "immature playboy" issue, but I'd hoped that at least physically he'd move a little differently. Seven more years of slouching and hopping around on everything would take their toll, surely.

Finally, I loved loved loved the ending's metacommentary about delivering a romance plot for Jo, who gets her book even as Jo-in-the-book gets a man.
posted by TwoStride at 12:50 PM on December 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

One think this version does well is treat the sisters as more than one-dimensional caricatures. Too often we get Beth, the otherworldly saint and Amy, the greedy brat. (The 1994 version veered too much that way, especially with Beth.) Gerwig makes them more fully realized people. Beth is socially anxious or maybe neurologically atypical, instead of an angelic presence. Amy has a much better arc now, and while she still has her faults and tantrums (burning Jo’s novel is always a horror), her choices make sense from her perspective, and are perhaps even wise. Marrying Laurie, the very rich person she has a connection with, rather than Fred, the ultra-rich man she doesn’t really care about, is clearly a sign of growth now. She’s too pragmatic not to marry wealth, but she chooses to give up some wealth to gain some love. I don’t think I’ve seen that choice portrayed so sympathetically before.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:11 AM on December 28, 2019 [14 favorites]

This was just full of kindness. I loved Saoirse Ronan's Jo and I think Florence Pugh's Amy is a wonder. I like the fullness all the characters had (even minor ones). I do really appreciate how this treated Amy's story as having almost equal importance as Jo's. They are good mirrors of each other.

I also think this is one of the first adaptations where I didn't feel like "Jo and Laurie are meant to be together!!!!" They clearly loved each other (and he clearly was in love with her, or thought he was), but it was definitely more playful, sibling chemistry they had. His relationship with Amy did feel more developed and made sense to me.

I didn't necessarily interpret "everything that happens after Bhaer leaves the house is just what Jo wrote in her book!" as the ending. Yes, the mad dash to the train station and the kiss under the umbrella were probably in the "book" ending, but to me, I think the final scenes of Jo's school with her family (and her family's families) to be real. Bhaer was there, too -- I don't know if he was there as just a teacher or Jo's husband/love interest, but I don't think that really matters.

Anyway, I really loved this and I admire that Gerwig decided "yeah, I'm going to make another adaptation of a beloved American classic as my second movie." That's remarkably brave. And yes, she had some privilege in being able to do this, but I liked that she made a choice that may not have worked. It was a remarkably confident and beautiful movie and I'm excited to see what Gerwig does next.
posted by darksong at 6:34 PM on December 29, 2019 [11 favorites]

Enjoyed this well enough, and adored that fabulously ambiguous and open ending. But I can't process right now beyond what I think was a horrible, horrible decision Greta Gerwig made by adding in the scene where Jo realizes she actually does love Laurie and writes that awful letter to him and leaves it in the post office on the tree.

That's nowhere in the book; Jo reads of Amy and Laurie's engagement in a letter and is fine with it, only being surprised upon their arrival that they'd already gotten married. That rushing-to-the-tree scene, clearly added to artificially and momentarily inflate Dramatic Conflict between the sisters, feels to me like such a betrayal of Jo's character - and of Alcott herself. I'm surprised no critics seem to have picked up on it. Jo did not change her mind about accepting Laurie as her husband after that great scene with her mother (in both the book and movie) where she admits she'd only be doing it "to be loved," rather than out of love.

Anyone else rubbed the wrong way by that addition to the story from Gerwig? I honestly find it inexplicable and appalling, and would love nothing more than to be guided away from that conclusion.
posted by mediareport at 8:03 PM on December 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I don't know if this is from the novels, but the script describes Jo "in the past" watching Beth and Teddy dance at Meg's wedding, and calls them the two halves of her heart.

So the "lonely" scene comes after one half has died. She's bereft, in mourning. She feels her writing's gone nowhere, and she thinks she's lost her new friend Bhaer in NY. She misses her old friend Teddy.

When her mother pointedly asks twice if she *loves* him, she doesn't answer, only repeats what she's said about women having minds and talents - but that she's lonely and wants to be loved.

As I alluded above, to me it's a gut punching scene.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:28 PM on December 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Anyone else rubbed the wrong way by that addition to the story from Gerwig?

I was wondering in the theater whether that was a part of the book I’d forgotten or something! It did humanize Jo a bit for me—that she made that very common mistake out of desperation and fear—but it definitely did not make sense to me that it came after her talk with Marmee (which made the same point about reaching for someone who wants you when you feel lonely, in a more effective way). If I had to insert it somewhere, I would have put it before that scene and had her go retrieve the letter after that talk in the attic, with her realization being unrelated to Amy and Laurie getting engaged. It also doesn’t mesh with the eventual ending, where it’s hinted the “real” Jo didn’t feel the need to end up partnered. (I do think it was clear Jo wasn’t acting out of “I regret I didn’t say yes because I do love you too” but rather “oh god did I make a mistake, what if no one else ever loves me like that.”)
posted by sallybrown at 5:49 AM on December 31, 2019 [5 favorites]

You're right about the placement. The whole bit just seemed a very odd addition to the novel, and I wonder what possessed Gerwig to do it.

NorthernLight: As I alluded above, to me it's a gut punching scene.

I agree; that conversation between Jo and her mother is a powerful scene in both the book and novel. The scene I'm referring to as a betrayal of both Jo and Alcott is the one where Jo writes a gushing letter of love and marriage to Laurie and sticks it in the post office on the tree, then sneaks back to remove it after she's shocked by Laurie's wedding to Amy. That's not from the book. It strikes me as very off.
posted by mediareport at 6:35 AM on December 31, 2019

I mean, doesn't Jo say something in the letter like "I've been a fool!"? I'll have to rewatch when it's out for home viewing but I'm pretty sure the vibe of that moment is self-scorning. Just not where Jo should be *at all* at that point.
posted by mediareport at 6:41 AM on December 31, 2019

Correction: in both the book and novel = "in both the book and film."
posted by mediareport at 6:46 AM on December 31, 2019

mediareport, thanks for sharing your experience of the movie (and the letter-writing scene) -- I'm still reflecting on my experience of watching this film and when I read your comment I went back to my copy of Little Women (it's the Annotated Little Women, pages 561-562). After Jo learns of the engagement, she has a conversation with Marmee where she shares that she had at least considered changing her mind:

Marmee: ...I fancied it might pain you to learn that your Teddy loved someone else.
Jo: Now, mother, did you really think I could be so silly and selfish, after I'd refused his love, when it was freshest, if not best?
Marmee: I knew you were sincere then, Jo, but lately I have thought that if he came back, and asked again, you might, perhaps, feel like giving another answer...
Jo: No, mother, it is better as it is, and I'm glad Amy has learned to love him. But you are right in one thing; I am lonely, and perhaps if Teddy had tried again, I might have said 'Yes', not because I love him any more, but because I care more to be loved, than when he went away.

I think it being a movie, Gerwig wanted to amplify this, but the kernel was there - Jo second-guessing herself, feeling lonely and at least considering the possibility that he would propose again, and that she would change her answer.

I also didn't see the letter Jo wrote in the movie "gushing" so much as typical Jo committing 100%. I don't think it was supposed to portray Jo being "in love" with Laurie - rather, Jo deciding that she'd made a mistake choosing solitude over a partnership, and jumping in feet first to this new course of action. Since it couldn't be shown with internal monologues it was made more explicit, IMHO!
posted by rogerroger at 8:53 AM on December 31, 2019 [11 favorites]

That passage you quote, rogerroger, is exactly the passage I mentioned above: "that conversation between Jo and her mother is a powerful scene in both the book and [film]." I went back to my copy, too. :)

Whether the scene with the non-Alcott letter strikes one as Jo gushing or not (I think it does read that way); I don't see how in your interpretation the scene is not Jo inexplicably violating the ideals she and her mother had just reaffirmed to one another mere moments before. It remains inexplicable to me why Gerwig felt the need to add it to the story, except to very briefly ramp up the emotional conflict between Jo and Amy for a few seconds of dramatic tension. I'm no purist; if anything, I wish Gerwig had done *more* to update the text like she did with that wonderfully open ending. But this particular addition was not true to Jo at all, for me.
posted by mediareport at 1:40 PM on December 31, 2019

But (at least per my script) the film scene in the attic doesn't end with Jo acknowledgong what Marmee has tried to point out. It cuts from the "lonely" line to Amy & Laurie getting ready to come home, and then to the letter scene. So it can be seen as a continuation of Jo's confused feelings. This is the letter.

JO (V.O.)
My dear Teddy, I miss you more than I can express.
...I used to think the worst fate was to be a wife, I was young and stupid. Now I have changed. The worst fate is to live my life without you in it. I was wrong to turn you down and run away to New York.

It's a different and perhaps stronger sentiment compared to the novel. But I think Greta might be having her cake and eating it too, and that's not bad.

For filmaking purposes, the visuals of running to the childhood mailbox has symbolism. And letting Jo's feelings still be intense works dramatically. Yes including the scenes where L. & A. return home. (I actually take bigger issue with Laurie coming across as a bit possessive of Jo when Bhaer shows up, even if it is amusing.)

But Greta's also letting us decide if it is romantic love, and hinting deeply it's not. So I still see it as Jo's loneliness at L's absence during the darkest point of her life, and thinking the passionless marriage would be preferable to being alone.
posted by NorthernLite at 2:12 PM on December 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

It also didn't help that Star Wars was next door with t he volume cranked to 11 so my screening of Little Women had the distant sounds of space battle occurring throughout.
Mine was CATS! A quiet moment in the movie, suddenly we were listening to "Me-e-e-e-e-mmmmrrryyyyyy"

The people I was with had no doubt that Jo and Bhaer were married at the end. I thought it was open ended and prefer it that way.

Florence Pugh's voice is mesmerizing. I have never seen her in anything before and I liked her a lot. Her clear assessment of her situation regarding marriage was excellent. I agree with her that she was always smart, it's just that no one was listening to her.

One thing I was very impressed by was the quality of the sisters' fighting. Both physical and verbal. In modern shows sibling fighting tends to be an exchange of witty insults or silly bickering. In real life you scream "leave me alone, you're stupid and nobody likes you" and then later you read magazines together. At least that's how I recall it.

I hate to admit that in the scenes where Beth was sick I noticed that some of the quilts appear to be machine quilted rather than hand-quilted as they would be at the time. Greta Gerwig, please call me for a quilt consult in the future.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:03 PM on January 1, 2020 [14 favorites]

Also, I am always cold in my apartment in the winter. What I learned from the Little Women is to just keep layering lovely structural jackets and wool pieces and to wear bloomers underneath my 3-7 skirts. Get ready for Very Cozy Emmy Rae.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:20 AM on January 2, 2020 [14 favorites]

Great film.

Meg gets a little bit of short shrift compared to the book, but I agree it was the most sensible part to trim.
posted by kyrademon at 2:46 PM on January 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Probably representing a serious gap in my cultural education, I had neither read the book nor seen any of the previous adaptations before seeing this. I took the dual endings to pretty clearly indicate that the one where she chases after Bhaer and eventually marries him to be the one in Jo's book, as ultimately published (and by extension, Alcott's book), and Jo alone in New York as the "real" ending.

Given that the book within the movie is essentially Jo's memoir, it's reasonable to conclude that she wrote it basically as it happened; then in the negotiation with the publisher, she eventually agrees to change the ending, which originally left the book's protagonist unmarried, to one where she is married (and along with giving up the advance, she gets to keep the copyright for that). Jo also serves as an Alcott-analogue there, emphasized by the cover of Jo's book as shown near the end being identical to the cover of the book which serves as the title of the movie at the beginning, except for the name of the author. ("L. M. Alcott" at the start, "J. L. March" at the end.) Jo also serves as a Gerwig-analogue in those scenes, objecting to an ending in which the protagonist marries after declaring through nearly the entire story that she'll never marry. So I never really considered any other interpretation than the one where the Jo-married ending is the one in Jo's book as published, and in Alcott's book, and the Jo-single ending is that of Jo's book as originally written, and of Gerwig's movie.

In a way I'm pleased that this is my first experience of the work, given the common reaction (as I gather from earlier comments in this thread) to Amy in the original and in other adaptations. I'm glad I got to know this nuanced, three-dimensional Amy first, and not "the one everyone hates."

The nonlinear narrative threw me a little bit at first, but I got used to it quickly enough and liked it, particularly in the juxtaposition of Beth's recovery from scarlet fever to her later death. Speaking of Beth, I found the relationship between her and Mr. Laurence touching.

Meg gets a little bit of short shrift compared to the book

Even not knowing the book, I picked up on this, particularly when in the "adult" storyline we're just dumped into the fact of Meg and John Brooke living as a married couple, having seen virtually no courtship or attraction between them up to that point in the movie.

Also, just before the final shot of Jo, there are these scene directions:
(It describes the four young girls at play.)

I don't remember that shot in the final cut. Anyone else?

Yep, there's a fairly brief montage there of the girls playing outside, the girls perfoming one of Jo's plays, maybe one or two other quick cuts. I took it as either Jo reflecting on their innocent youth, or Gerwig reminding the audience of their innocent youth (OR MAYBE BOTH) but in either case I didn't take it as fiction.

Too often we get Beth, the otherworldly saint

The movie may have given us a more well-rounded Beth, but I feel like we got Marmee, the otherworldly saint here. (I don't know how true that is to the book.) She tells Jo she's angry nearly every day, and only 40 years of experience have given her the patience to control that, but we never see the slightest hint of it... and yet I still believe it, but perhaps only because it's Laura Dern saying so.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:35 PM on January 3, 2020 [5 favorites]

She tells Jo she's angry nearly every day, and only 40 years of experience have given her the patience to control that, but we never see the slightest hint of it... and yet I still believe it, but perhaps only because it's Laura Dern saying so.

This is a moment (with the same line of dialogue, as well) I feel that the PBS miniseries from last year did best (of the adaptations I've seen). Marmee was played by Emily Watson and was given actual moments to show her escaping to a room to calm herself (for both anger and sadness). Susan Sarandon's portrayal in the '94 adaptation seemed to show more of Marmee's frustration with the world but I don't believe that they actually use that line.
posted by acidnova at 7:37 PM on January 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

mediareport, you might be interested in Shannon Keating's reading of the movie as leaving space for an interpretation of Jo as queer. Here's what she says about the post office scene:
And when she puts that letter to Laurie in the mailbox, Jo, like so many queer girls — like so many girls who, for whatever reason, don’t want to live by men’s rules — has a moment of doubt in which she considers the possibility of living a more “normal” life, in the most tolerable way she sees available to her.
posted by aws17576 at 10:02 PM on January 3, 2020 [7 favorites]

Even not knowing the book, I picked up on this, particularly when in the "adult" storyline we're just dumped into the fact of Meg and John Brooke living as a married couple, having seen virtually no courtship or attraction between them up to that point in the movie.

That’s a shame because their courtship is very charming in the book. I will say, Emma Watson was the weakest link for me- she didn’t have “oldest sister” energy (and I am one, so I recognize).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:37 PM on January 4, 2020 [5 favorites]

Agreed re: Watson - I didn't think her interpretation of Meg was as strong as the other sisters'. I actually could imagine her as a compelling Jo in a different adaptation, although Saoirse Ronan was wonderful in this one.

I went down a YouTube rabbit hole and watched hours of interviews with the actors and Gerwig. One of my favorite things I learned was that Saoirse Ronan didn't wear the corsets and restricting clothes the other actresses did because Gerwig didn't think Jo would have worn those, and so Jo is able to move freely throughout the film. The attention to detail in the film was incredible and I'm going to watch it again to see what else I notice.
posted by rogerroger at 9:48 PM on January 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

mediareport, you might be interested in Shannon Keating's reading of the movie as leaving space for an interpretation of Jo as queer. Here's what she says about the post office scene:

Yeah, I think this makes so much more sense in the context of Gerwig's queering (or returning to queerness) of the story. The article I linked has this absolutely stunning quote from Louisa May Alcott:
“I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul, put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body,” Alcott once said, according to biographical material that Gerwig references. “I have fallen in love in my life with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man.”
And of course Jo is Alcott's stand-in. I really love this version partially because it does draw out that queerness, but also because it places Jo in such a unique and interesting time for women - when the Civil War/abolitionism/Transcendentalism/the nascent Suffrage movement had created some small space for women of this class to read and write, live intellectual lives, and very occasionally work or live independently, but which they absolutely could not do if married to a man. So this was the beginning of the era of Boston Marriages, etc. (read Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers for a really great, in-depth chronicle of this time)

I really thought the letter sequence made sense in this context. Jo is giving up SO MUCH in refusing Laurie. It's not just "no one else will ever love me" (which would honestly be enough, that's a very human emotion!) but she's given up a chance to to have the kind of loving family she grew up in, or (it must have seemed) any sort of companionship at all. I remember reading once that Alcott felt bereft when her own younger sister died, and her other sisters got married, and we see that reflected in Jo in this adaptation. She didn't feel like she needed Laurie (or Bhaer) because she had her sisters - and now she doesn't have them anymore.

We see that reflected again in the last scene, when she's watching her book bound. She's happy and triumphant, but she's also aware of what she's given up. Gerwig is showing us the tradeoffs she's had to make, and I don't think it's a betrayal of this amazing character - if anything, it makes her even stronger - she's got some sadness about the things she's given up, but she's stayed true to herself and created something that will be loved for generations to come.
posted by lunasol at 11:05 AM on January 7, 2020 [9 favorites]

I also thought it was interesting what short shrift Professor Baehr was given in this version. We see them flirt a few times, and then he insults her writing, and that's pretty much it until he comes to Concord. I haven't read the book or seen the 90s adaptation in ages, so I don't remember if he had more of a role in either, but I do remember him being a bit more of a character. This felt like some astute commentary from Gerwig about what passes as love interests for a lot of intelligent female characters in classic novels/movies - basically a guy who will flirt with and neg her.
posted by lunasol at 11:08 AM on January 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

none of the adaptations include the sequence in which demi won't go the fuck to sleep...all we have in the most recent is john briefly telling meg that he can look after the kids
posted by brujita at 12:59 AM on January 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

I also thought it was interesting what short shrift Professor Baehr was given in this version.

I thought at least part of it was that in the book, his concern is with the "scandalous" stories she is writing, and he kind of brings her to an understanding that she can write what he would see as good material that represents a certain set of morals. That concern doesn't play very well to a modern audience. I liked the change Gerwig made so that his concern was taking her writing seriously rather than giving a moral lecture.
posted by Emmy Rae at 2:05 PM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Louis garrel doesn't look that much older than saoirse bhaer is based on Thoreau, on whom alcott had a crush
posted by brujita at 9:09 PM on January 8, 2020

Saoirse Ronan didn't wear the corsets and restricting clothes the other actresses did because Gerwig didn't think Jo would have worn those, and so Jo is able to move freely throughout the film

Alcott had the Enlightened Guardian in ROSE IN BLOOM specifically reject corsets as unhealthy, so this is not even period-inappropriate.
posted by praemunire at 1:34 AM on January 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have mixed feelings about this. The 1994 version will always be THE adaptation, to me, but I think the framing of this one, with most of the plot in flashback, worked well. So much of Little Women is episodic anyway. And Saoirse Ronan and Laura Dern are incredible.

Quibble: I was annoyed that they were wandering around in their underwear all the time. I'm guessing that was supposed to be bloomers, but (1) bloomers were a political statement about ten years before the start of the story and (2) the pants weren't gathered, so they looked like chemise + pantalettes anyway. Also, the Marchs are so poor they don't have any hairpins?

And it is definitely cheating to make Prof. Bhaer hotter than Laurie! Maybe it's just me getting older, but Laurie looked about 16 throughout (teen on his first bender is right). I was surprised to learn that Timothee Chalamet and Florence Pugh are actually the same age. But on the other hand, the two of them fit together in a way that he and Jo did not. So kudos for making me think, for the first time since reading the novel, that she was right to turn him down.

Although I agree that marriage, especially in the 1870s, was an economic necessity for women, I was not a fan of the anvilicious delivery from Aunt March then Amy. Really mixed feelings about the dual ending -- I loved that they incorporated so much of Louisa May Alcott's own life into the ending, but also, the way the 1994 movie resolves the marriage vs equality thing was excellent (Jo proposes to Fritz, saying she needs a teacher for her new school). But in order for that to work, you need more Jo and Fritz scenes, and I don't want anything to detract from the real heart of this version, the love between the sisters.
posted by basalganglia at 4:59 PM on January 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Kaitlyn Greenidge wrote an interesting oped on race and Little Women for the NY Times.
If you are a black girl reading the American canon, you often have to perform a special equation. We do not appear in many of the books deemed classic literature. As Toni Morrison noted after she wrote her own contribution to the canon, “The Bluest Eye,” “that subject — those most vulnerable, most undescribed, not taken seriously little black girls — had never existed seriously in literature. No one had ever written about them except as props.”

So when we as black girls read most books, we have to will ourselves into the bodies on the page, with a selectivity and an internal edit that white readers of the same canon do not necessarily have to exercise.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:24 AM on January 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

this is, i think, the only negative review of little women i've encountered; seems pretty accurate, though:

Little Women for the Lean-In Generation: With its starchy girl-power message and Meryl Streepish prestige, Little Women is bound to be a hot contender for critics’ awards, Oscars, and Golden Globes. But don’t be fooled: it’s a bad movie.
posted by sapagan at 1:36 PM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Little Women for the Lean-In Generation:

Of god, of course that's from fucking Jacobin. I guess it's "accurate" in that the author did see the movie, but it's utterly deaf to the feminist message of the movie, which is, ironically, actually quite materialist. Pasting the concept of "Leaning In" onto this film is pretty facile and really makes me wonder how much the reviewer actually knows about feminist history and thought in this era.
posted by lunasol at 3:40 PM on January 13, 2020 [7 favorites]

Well it's been years and years since I saw something in an actual movie theater, and you all have convinced me to go watch this in a theater.

(Seriously, it has been a really long time. I didn't even realize assigned seating was a thing now, and I did a double take at 'dine-in' options)
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 10:21 PM on January 21, 2020

Of course there was already a March family minus Jo chat
posted by ominous_paws at 10:46 AM on January 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

You know you're totally Greta Gerwig's new bitch when you can't read that groupchat parody without seeing her actresses doing it.

I didn't get a lot of Jo's fanfiction references, but still hilarious.

And of course, (SPOILER for the parody, & not to overthink this bean plate, but) if Laurie & Jo were both trans, there'd still be debate about whether they belonged together.
posted by NorthernLite at 3:54 PM on January 22, 2020

Oh boy, I fucking loved this movie and everything about it. I laughed and cried, I loved the subtlety and the not subtlety.

I thought the direction, cinematography (Barry Lyndon was a clear inspiration), editing and music was sensational. Loved the acting.

Loved the script and the clever metacommentary, which didn't come at the expense of emotion.

It was satisfying to me on every level.
posted by smoke at 2:16 AM on January 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh I especially loved, as a child in a family of four, how the movie was both elegy and paean to family and siblings.
posted by smoke at 2:21 AM on January 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Amy Discovers Jo's AO3 Handle and Drags Her in the March Family Groupchat
Me: 😭
posted by lunasol at 3:59 PM on January 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Once again, here's me with an unpopular opinion, but holy shit I HATED THIS MOVIE.

Here's some necessary background. To begin: a few years ago, I asked the fine people of Fanfare if I should see Coco, because "TBH I actually hate watching movies about large, loving families because that is so far from my experience, and I resent it." I was reassured I would love it anyway, but I was skeptical; I decided to pass on it. Well, for much the same reasons I wanted to pass on Little Women, but a friend whose husband refused to see it with her begged me to accompany her, and I DID love Lady Bird (IMO one of the best movies of the past decade), so I figured I should give it a shot.

Anyway, oops, my bad. I spent the 2+ hours in the movie theatre bored out of my freaking mind. Not only did I feel like the outsider at a big family reunion, but I was so uninterested and uninvested in everything happening on screen that I felt like I was coming out of my skin. I bolted from the theatre as soon as it was over because YIKES I couldn't clear out of there soon enough.

So this is what makes me think, if my inner voice tells me to avoid a movie, I should heed it. Movies about big happy cozy families make me feel like shit, and this was no exception. Maybe if there were higher stakes and more of a story I would have been less fidgety, but there wasn't a lot of story there-- just (in Louisa May Alcott's own words) "moral pap for the young."

TBH I'm not a big fan of the original novel, but I enjoyed the 1990s version well enough, though I haven't seen it since it came out. This version seemed well crafted enough, with good editing and good music, but the costumes and hair were mediocre at best. They were aggressively RELATABLE, with so many beachy waves, side parts and unstructured knit wear that I felt like I was watching a live action Free People catalog.

I loved the Jacobin review, btw.

So yeah. I saw it. Hated it. Don't worry, I'm used to being the sole dissenter on pop culture matters. I just wanted to put my two cents in while I had a chance.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:17 AM on January 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

the costumes and hair were mediocre at best. They were aggressively RELATABLE, with so many beachy waves, side parts and unstructured knit wear that I felt like I was watching a live action Free People catalog.

One of my worst opinions about movies is that I hate period hair. I know I said I noticed the incorrect quilts* and I'm sure anyone who knows anything about historical hairstyles feels way more annoyed by inaccurate hair than my little "hm!" moment about the quilts. But I still just hate some of those very (subjectively) weird old hairstyles and I am grateful when they modernize the hair for my viewing comfort. The BBC Pride & Prejudice has stuck in my head forever as being great except for how distracted I was by the ugly hair.

I feel like I should be better/smarter and want the accurate version but I don't.

*another quilter thinks I may be wrong about them
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:23 PM on January 29, 2020

Finally saw this as part of a Oscar marathon and loved it. I'm sort of a sucker for meta-fiction so I loved that ending may have been the ending of the book inside the movie and not this actual movie. I didn't go in expecting that the movie it would remind me the most of would be Adaptation especially given that Cooper and Streep are in both.
posted by octothorpe at 8:23 AM on February 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm finally able to read this thread because it's finally out here. The wait is so worth it, not least for the guy in front who went, after the movie, "joker got best director nomination, but not this??".

Totally enjoyed how they've cut up the narrative order of the text, it really brought to fore some of the book's best emotional bits in the way that serves the visual medium. I'm left to wonder about the creative work in the Gerwig-Baumbach household because of this whole trick of introducing an emotional beat first before the context so you get a delayed recognition in the first viewing.

Emma Watson's eyebrows were made for the Meg role imo, and I'm not being facetious.

Anyway, looking forward to watching it again.
posted by cendawanita at 5:48 AM on February 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've read Little Women many, many times and am a big Alcott fan in general. I avoided watching this movie for a long time because I knew it would annoy me, but finally decided to give it a chance. And annoy me it did. Jo March should not be played by a beautiful actress, and dressing Saoirse Ronan bizarrely and doing her hair untidily didn't correct for that -- especially when the book said that Jo grew out of her harum-scarum ways and dressed and groomed herself quite neatly if not fashionably as an adult. Like others in this thread, I was enraged by the way Jo supposedly changed her mind about Laurie. In the book she never wavered as to the wisdom of her refusal, though she acknowledged that, in her grief and loneliness after Beth's death, she might have been vulnerable to a renewed effort on Laurie's part, but not because she thought she had made a mistake. Professor Bhaer was also played by a ridiculously hot young French guy -- arghhhh. There were also so many anachronisms in the way the characters acted and spoke to each other that I half expected one of them to pull out a cell phone or at the very least, a copy of The Feminine Mystique.

The movie was good in its way, with its fine cast and truly beautiful visuals, but I kept wishing all that effort and skill had been expended on an original script rather than on a tone deaf take of a beloved classic.
posted by orange swan at 5:04 PM on November 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is my first Little Women experience, and when I found out that a middle-aged, dumpy, German professor was turned into a young, hot, French professor I loved it. To me it's in the same category as Amy deciding that if she's going to marry for money it might as well be to someone she cares about, and Jo deciding that if she's going to cater to the mainstream she might as well get paid for the copyright. If you have to marry off your director's avatar, you might as well make the guy good-looking. It's not like there's any other real reason for them to be together.

I didn't interpret Jo's letter as being a real change of heart, even without having read the book first. It played like a fear-based reaction, that for a little while she thought she'd rather be married to a friend who's in love with her than to be lonely and poor for the rest of her life. If it weren't for Amy and Laurie showing up when they did, it's plausible she would have thrown the letter away after she'd had a bit more time to grieve the loss of Beth. It seemed to me more like a moment of weakness than a genuine desire to be with Laurie.
posted by harriet vane at 6:31 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]

geez there's quite a few reviews (or just opinions on the internet) out there criticising the film for being "woke" or talking about its Girl Power attitude. But people haven't loved this book for more than a hundred years because it's a pretty little time-capsule. That kind of popularity comes from the story and characters having resonance for every generation. The challenges of surviving in a society that doesn't really think women are full human beings aren't new. I watched this a few days after Alito's draft opinion on Roe v Wade was leaked. Talk about thinking women are only made for love - some still think we're just incubators with legs, and they're not real happy about the legs part.

And most audiences won't see the parallels unless the adaptation draws them out, same as a teacher might draw them out in a class discussion. The most sneering reviews have a touch of misogyny about them. The criticisms of the editing of the re-worked timeline and the supposed ages of Amy and Laurie are much more reasonable. There's definitely legit criticisms to be made of this version, but the feminism is a natural growth from the content.
posted by harriet vane at 7:13 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]

What the fuck, is Timothee Chalamet an actual boy genius?!?! He was phenomenal in this AND he was phenomenal in the one other thing I saw him in (Don't Look Up). This kid is the real deal, holy wow. And I mean I already knew Florence Pugh is immensely talented, and I kind of expected her steal every scene exactly like she ended up doing, but godDAMN I was not expecting Chalamet. Officially a fangirl now.
posted by MiraK at 2:22 PM on September 3

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