Released: 1st January
Seen: 18th January
Remember how stunned we all were when we heard they were doing another version of A Star Is Born? Four versions of the same movie seemed insane, right? Remakes are one thing but multiple remakes are something else. Well, I bring this up because Little Women, according to IMDB, has been adapted 25 times. Think about that for a second, a book printed in 1868 has been adapted, on average, once every six years since the original publication of the first volume of the novel… and considering that the first adaptation doesn’t pop up until 1917, it’s probably adapted once every four years. Basically, this is here to explain why I cannot in any way give you a fair comparison between every version because there are far too many for me to even try it. I also can’t tell you how it compares to the book because I didn’t read it when most people do. As far as this review is concerned, no version outside the 2020 adaptation by Greta Gerwig exists and it will be judged on its own merits. I cannot tell you if this is a truly great adaptation of the original novel that’s going to make you feel as though you are living the lives of the March sisters as you imagined them from the source material. I can tell you that it’s just a damn sweet movie that made me all warm and happy inside.
The film draws you in with effortless ease right from the very first shot. The perfect framing and subtle performance by Saoirse Ronan instantly makes you sit up and notice what’s going on. From that first moment, the film sets you at ease and invites you to follow the lives of the four young women, and it’s very easy to accept that invite. Within minutes of the film starting there was this sense of calm washing over me while a smile made its way onto my face where it remained for the next several hours (except for the obvious sad bits, I’m not a big enough asshole to smile during moments of pure tragedy). There’s no point in reciting the plot because those who know the book already know the plot and for those who don’t, it’s not like it’s a plot that can be easily described. It’s a slice of life, peeking in at different intervals of these women’s lives.
Specifically, we peek in at 1861 and 1868 and alternate between the two time periods. That alternating between the past and present can take a moment to adjust to, since the gap isn’t long enough to require the actors to do drastic makeup effects to show aging you have to look for the subtle cues of who is wearing what outfit, what woman has a beau on her arm or where they are. The film lets you get a handle on this back and forth early on but it will eventually trust you to keep up with it. I will admit this did throw me a little at first but once I got into the realisation that in the end it’s a series of events that happen in their lives and I don’t really need to keep track of every detail, it becomes easier.
Helping to make this film go by so easily and make it so delightful is the stunning cast, in particular Saoirse Ronan who just continues to prove that one of the greatest actresses of our generation with a performance that carries the film. She’s helped by Florence Pugh, the other truly great performance in the film, who has probably just had the best year out of anyone in Hollywood since 2019 (in the states) saw her doing this movie, Fighting with My Family and Midsommar… and she was amazing in all of them, although her Oscar nom should be for Midsommar and not this movie. She’s brilliant in this movie, do not get me wrong, but it’s clear this is the movie that the academy feels safe nominating instead of her obviously superior role.
Speaking of obvious things the Academy screwed up because they are stupid and bad at everything, why the hell isn’t Greta Gerwig nominated for best director? She’s created a timeless piece of art that is so perfectly assembled that it’s honestly just unfair to everyone else, pulled career-best performances out of actors who have long enough careers for that concept to mean something and created a modern take on an 1800s novel… and she doesn’t get nominated for best director, when this film gets nominated in pretty much every other category. It’s almost like the Academy needs to do something serious to fix its issues regarding women in these categories and… oh, how did I get up on this box of soap? Point is, Greta Gerwig directed the film amazingly and deserves unending praise.
She deserves all the praise because she made a movie that’s so good I almost wanted to just write “Go see it again” a few dozen times because I accept I’m the late one here. Every performance works, every shot is perfection, every line of dialogue feels natural and is delivered effortlessly by this stellar cast. Every little scene from these characters lives runs between charming, sweet and emotional in equal measure and I was happy to go along with them. They knew when to repeat certain shots to create an emotional punch in the gut or when to hold back just enough to make an uplifting moment hit at the right time. Everything feels effortlessly good and yet it’s so clearly meticulously thought out so the audience wouldn’t have to worry about a damn thing… almost like it had a really great director or something.
Little Women deserves unending praise; it’s just a sheer delight from top to bottom. I’ll admit some parts felt a little slow and the time jump thing threw me a little bit but on the whole, it’s a nice sweet movie that doesn’t push too far into the sweetness to become saccharine and really lets its actresses shine bright as possible. It’s a truly great film that’ll make you feel all warm and happy inside, be you a little man, little woman, big man or big woman.