PG and a well-deserved PG as well. I know some friends of mine, who happen to read this blog, were upset that the alcohol flowed so freely, considering that Alcott specifically mentioned that the March family basically abstained from drinking. Okay, I'll give you that. Laurie is also a kind of a jerk from time to time in the movie, which can be jarring. But in terms of questionable content, the movie is remarkably tame. That's right, a well-deserved PG Greta Gerwig movie.
DIRECTOR: Greta Gerwig
There are some properties out there that are very precious to people. These are the people like my wife. She was really hesitant to see this movie. It was almost kicking and screaming. Okay, maybe not that. She went into this movie skeptical and apathetic. I can kind of see where she was coming from. Little Women has been made and adapted into film multiple times. There are beats that have to be hit and there's only so many ways that we can see the same movie over and over again. But both my wife and I left the movie pleasantly surprised. Greta Gerwig may have proven herself the master of balance with Little Women.
See, I wanted to see the whole thing burned to the ground. That's right. I'm the Joker. I'm an anarchist. I wanted Marie Antoinette for Little Women. Yeah, I'm the bad guy in your story. The thing about a property that has been done so many times is that it becomes untouchable. You have to do this, you have to do that. But I know Greta Gerwig movies. She's got a thing for fun dialogue and an indie-punk tone to accompany that rad dialogue. There's a certain rebelliousness to her ouvre and I wanted to see Little Women, a heartwarming story, colored in that light. I didn't get that. I got a little bit of that. For all that I'm about to write about, Little Women is still a Greta Gerwig movie. But Gerwig decides to shade something that works instead of breaking everything down from scratch.
And my wife liked that a lot. Instead of watching a movie that she has seen before, she got a new angle on the same events. Gerwig, with her framing devices, changes the way that we view the events of Little Women. Rather than simply presenting the events chronologically, having Jo reflect on her life from a point of nostalgia adds a new dimension to an established plot. We know from moment one that Jo and Laurie don't end up together. Because Jo and Laurie have already endured a failed proposal, Jo is in a place of despair. But Jo March's despair is such a fine color on her because we get to know who she is as a character from the first fifteen minutes without having a painful amount of exposition. The opening shot, Jo March selling a short story, gives us the background of her passion. Her joy in that moment of selling a short story below price also tells us her value system. But quickly, we discover the concept that she is a fish out of water. Her home is her family. She thrives in the world of the March household. As much as Jo is thriving, she too is floundering. She is afraid to return home because of the consequences of her choices and that makes the events of the story interesting.
I read on a comments thread that the events of Little Women might be unintelligible with this play on chronology. I don't know if that is true. I know Little Women. I haven't been in the cult of Little Women by any means. I like the story enough and I've seen more than one adaptation of the text. But there were still surprises in the movie that I had forgotten about. It was still a fresh story. I like the jumps back and forth in time. It breaks up the biggest problem I have with the original story, the slow pace. Jumping back and forth creates a fun sense of stakes that I don't think other productions have offered in the past.
The movie isn't necessarily perfect, but a lot of the negatives really could be chalked up to nitpicking. One thing that we whispered back and forth is how the character don't seem to age whatsoever. Seven years in the lives of early 20-somethings is actually kind of a big deal. But is it worth really being upset about? Probably not. The women of the March household exist almost outside of reality. They are paragons of their gifts. While reading Little Women, the characters seem older than their actual ages. Thus, when they are older, I never read them as not being the proper ages. Amy, who in the flashback should be along the lines of 13, never really bothers me with the age issue.
I also feel bad for Laura Dern's Marmie. Laura Dern is a rad actress and I really like seeing her in this movie. But her character is pretty undeveloped. But that's a small sacrifice, because...
AMY'S CHARACTER IS REALLY GOOD! I know that in Lady Bird, I complained about how blah Saoirse Ronan was. She's significantly better in this movie and does a great job as Jo. But I cared so much more about Florence Pugh's Amy March. I never cared about Amy before. Amy is so central to this story and I'm ashamed that I never really made that connection. A lot of the credit goes to Pugh and Gerwig for making Amy a likable and relatable character. Yeah, she's still the devil for burning Jo's book. That knee-jerk reaction will never leave me, no matter what I do. But Amy comes across in this version as a well-developed supporting role. The relationship that she has with Laurie, partially due to the chronology of the film, comes across as authentic. I absolutely adore it. Because Amy interacts with Laurie from the earliest moments of the film, when she ultimately ends up with him, it actually makes sense. Also, her line about not wanting to have Jo's hand-me-downs is completely built through the film. If you are questioning whether or not to watch Little Women, watch it for nothing else than an amazing development of Amy March's character.
But I have to say this. This has been the least analytical thing I've written because I'm still emotionally high over the movie. One thing that I don't know has ever really been said by me is that this version of Little Women is straight up fun. For all my grumbling about Lady Bird, I think that Greta Gerwig is a fun director. I enjoyed Frances Ha. The joy that is imbued in this film left me entertained. It became less about a love story and more about how family interacts. Is the love story in there? Yeah, and it's great. I love knowing that the story isn't giving me the easy answer. Little Women allows for the stories and interactions to be complicated. Will the Marches always be just off reality? Sure. But that is also what makes them special. I kind of get it now. Yeah, true devotees will probably scoff at my newfound affection for these characters based on this movie, but I hope that someone appreciates it. I know the source material is great, but I really had a fun time with this movie and I'm thrilled that it is up for an Oscar.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.