Little Women (2019) – Blu-Ray Review

Greta Gerwig’s new version of Little Women is based on the Louisa May Alcott book, which has been adapted several times since the silent era. The 1933 version by George Cukor was perhaps the first notable adaptation, followed by the 1949 film starring June Allyson and the 1994 movie with Winona Ryder and directed by Gillian Armstrong. Gerwig makes the link with Alcott’s own life more explicit, and uses flashbacks and some updated dialogue. It has a really strong cast, with Saoirse Ronan (who worked with Gerwig on Lady Bird), Emma Watson and Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlon as the four March sisters, plus Laura Dern playing their mother. Meryl Streep plays Aunt March and Timothée Chalamet (also in Lady Bird) plays Laurie who is the friend of the March and has the hots for Saoirse Ronan’s Jo.

It’s the story of four sisters during the Civil War as they try to navigate growing up, relationships and lack of money. I felt that Florence Pugh’s Amy was the real stand-out performance of the four, although Ronan is also quite good in what is the lead role of Jo. Pugh has had an excellent few years with her lead in Midsommar, and she’s great in The Little Drummer Girl back in 2018 as well.

They spent quite a lot on the film—not an insane amount, but enough to ensure great costume design and locations. The film’s only Oscar win was a much deserved one for it’s Costume Design. The fractured timeframe was something some purists were not happy with, but after a while you get used to it. It was shot by Yorick Le Saux, who often works with Olivier Assayas. Composer Alexandre Desplat, who often works with Wes Anderson, delivers the score. Gerwig probably should have had an Oscar nomination for directing. She was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay but lost to Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit.

Little Women is based on an evergreen story that every new generation can find something to relate to in. This is kind of the Millennial version, but the director doesn’t work that angle too strongly, instead going for high-quality period drama. It still delivers a powerful story that continues to interest viewers and work despite the passage of time. Gerwig took the middle ground between the end of the published version of the novel and Alcott’s own life (the author was forced to add an ending where Jo gets married instead of becoming an author; here you get both). The final sequence of the film is pitch perfect and for people who have a almost fetishistic glee in the art of book binding will have plenty to admire.

There was a lot made in the media about it being a film that men wouldn’t go see, but I thought it was one of the better films of the year, and it clearly made a lot of money so that whole thing sounds like bullshit. It was incredibly well made as well, proving that Gerwig has a lot to offer. It even made me interested in her next project, a Barbie film with Margot Robbie—I’ll be interesting to see what her take on that property will be! A few viewers also felt that Bob Odenkirk (better known for playing Saul in Breaking Bad) appearing as the father who finally returns from the war took them out of the film, but I was fine with that, and it was nice to see that he is branching out into more dramatic work in recent years.

The disc includes 5 featurettes about the novel and making the film, and hair and makeup tests for the film. Incidentally, for you collectors, the UK Blu-Ray cover is a lot better than the US version.

★★★★★

Ian Schultz

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