Little Women is directed by Greta Gerwig. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Bob Odenkirk, and Meryl Streep. The film is based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel; and it is not to be confused with the 2018 adaptation which was set in modern times.
In the time of the American Civil War; the March Family finds themselves without their father, who’s gone off to join the war effort. The four sisters and their mother make the best of what they have; befriending and helping a poorer family, as well as making the acquaintance of the family of Theodore Laurence; a wealthy young man who finds himself infatuated with the March girls. Several years later, the world has changed for the girls as well as those around them; as they struggle to come to terms with changes and tragedies all around.
There have been countless adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women over the years; including films, television series, musicals, operas, and many others. This time around, Greta Gerwig is in the director’s chair; and the film reunites her with her Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet. The production design and casting are fantastic; but a confusing non-chronological narrative and an overlong running time work against the final product.
No one can argue with the casting and the production design here. Chalamet, Ronan, and Dern are all absolute standouts in the movie; and the 19th century clothing and set design definitely work in the film’s favor. It transports its viewers to another time, and in many ways, the production makes the best of what it has.
Sadly, despite its ambition, the film struggles in many ways. There are way too many characters and subplots; and condensing and cramming it into a movie of just over two hours simply doesn’t work. The movie opts for a non-chronological narrative with is very difficult to keep up with; alternating between the “past” and “present” in the movie. It doesn’t help the characters more or less look the same in both time periods; played by the same actors and actresses. The movie drones on far too long, losing the attention of its audience in more than a few places.
I liked many aspects of this take on Little Women, but I wanted to love it. Solid performances and production design can’t save the movie from its obvious weaknesses; including a confusing narrative structure, an overabundance of characters and subplots, and a lack of momentum. The movie deserves an Oscar for its production design; including costuming and the period detail, but as is, it’s best enjoyed as a rental come the eventual home release.
Rating: Two stars out of four.
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