Little Women by Greta Gerwig: The best adaptation of the iconic novel


Brooke Lattin, Reporter

Louisa May Alcott’s widely loved novel Little Women has been adapted into a film multiple times. Not one of the five older film adaptations surpasses the skillful and touching storytelling of director Greta Gerwig. Little Women is a feminist anthem that shows us that women can be successful without a husband and that you can still be independent while having a husband. 

Greta Gerwig did a fantastic job showing the purpose of this film. This film honors the book and offers the perspective of a feminist trying to overcome obstacles to be a writer. She escapes the expectation of getting married during the 1860s—a time when women were not treated with the same respect and freedom as men. 

Gerwig has collaborated with Noah Baumbach on several films, including Frances Ha (2012), for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination. Her works include Lady Bird (2017), Nights and Weekends (2008) and Barbie (2023). Gerwig’s film Lady Bird was nominated for and won many awards, including the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay. 

The film begins in New York City during the Civil War, with Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) going to the publisher to get stories published for her so-called “friend.” The publisher Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts), recognizes Jo’s work and agrees to publish. He appears rude and does not regard Jo’s hard work and creativity. We are briefly introduced to Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel). 

The film jumps back in time. This is something we often see throughout this film. Gerwig does a beautiful job of smoothly jumping between the past, present, and future. Next, we meet Jo’s littlest sister Amy March (Florence Pugh), her grumpy Aunt March (Meryl Streep), and Jo’s best friend, Theodore “Laurie” Laurence. Meg March (Emma Watson) and her husband, John Brooke (James Norton), appear. We learn that the couple and their two children are struggling financially. Last but certainly not least is Beth March (Eliza Scanlen). Beth is a shy and sweet girl who enjoys playing the piano. She’s the last sister at home, living with her mother (Laura Dern). 

Each March sister is unique, with varying characteristics and traits. Jo is stubborn and tomboyish, while Amy is feminine and immature. Beth is sweet and quiet, and Meg longs for luxury and money like her family once had. Each sister is relatable in her own way. The audience can easily connect and understand the March sisters. 

Gerwig selected the best actors and actresses to take on the essential roles in the film. Saoirse Ronan has won and been nominated for several awards. She worked with Gerwig previously in Lady Bird. Florence Pugh is a fabulous actress who was recently in the film Don’t Worry Darling with Harry Styles, which won the award for People’s Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Movie. Pugh is a talented actress who plays Amy March beautifully. Another beloved actor is none other than Timothee Chalamet. Chalamet has been in several films and is well-known for his role as Laurie. My favorite scene in this film involves both Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet.

The cinematography in this film is beautiful and touching. Gerwig uses a contrast of warm autumn colors and darker tones which are captivating. The film was shot in 35 mm to enjoy the texture of the movie and the skin tones. According to Yorick Le Saux, the man in charge of filming, “there were long shots, wide shots with all the girls and the mother, with a moving camera, not super precise. When they are in the present, they’re separate and more alone, each sister in her world, so the camera is more still, more precise, and a frame, one by one, instead of having the long shots with everyone inside the frame.” Gerwig and Le Saux put so much into making this incredible film, and it shows. 

The costumes are stunning and perfectly relevant and accurate to the time. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran layered a vibrancy to the designs parallel to the family’s more radical nature. Durran shared that “Jo’s notebook was red, but [they] didn’t want her to wear red all the time, so we fell on red and indigo as her palette. Meg was lavender and green. Amy was light blue, and Beth wore pink and brown tones.” Each March sister had her unique color wheel. 

The score, composed by Alexandre Desplat, is moving and emotional. He uses crescendos and diminuendos to add drama and emotion to the scene. Music is an essential aspect of a film. It is imperative that it does not detract from the actors. Desplat did a perfect job using music to enhance the scenes. 

Gerwig captures her ahead-of-the-times spirit and turns the film’s end into something infectious for a new generation with ambitions. Instead of sticking with Alcott’s not-so-happy ending, she showed us that we could all find happiness.

The film takes you on an emotional roller coaster and forces you to feel for each character. Little Women is appropriate for any age. It is witty and has the proper amount of emotional weight and seriousness. Little Women is rated PG and makes for an enjoyable family movie. This movie includes drama, love, heartbreak, joy, and grief. Gerwig does a fine job of showing what women (who aspired to do things that women didn’t commonly do) had to deal with and the sexism, misogyny, and gender roles they faced. This movie may tug at your heartstrings, so keep tissues nearby.

Little Women (2019) is available on Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime for $3.89. 

Trailer: Little Women (2019) Trailer

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