1.5 out of 5 stars (One of the Worst of the Year)
I don’t like Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. While it has received near-universal adoration from audiences and critics, I was alternately bored, confused, and frustrated. I loved the 1994 version, so what went wrong? In my opinion, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women entirely misunderstands its story, themes, and characters, burying strong performances under sentimental montages and momentum-killing time jumps. Were this my introduction to the Marches, I’d never care to see them again.
We follow hard-working teacher Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) in 1868 as she reflects on life with her close-knit family: Sisters Amy (Florence Pugh), Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Meg (Emma Watson), matriarch Marmee (Laura Dern), their Aunt (Meryl Streep), and close friend Laurie (Timothee Chalamet). We jump between their idealistic younger years and the present to see each conquering adulthood apart and together.
Little Women has some good points. The cast and period detail are mostly strong, the costumes are beautiful, and occasional comedic and intimate moments work. Unfortunately, the constant time jumps eviscerate the story and character arcs, weakening both the familial bond and the sisters as individuals despite great performances from all. Chalamet is miscast as Laurie, somewhat selling the character’s loving side, but possessing the roguish charisma of a wet paper bag.
The film is also overstuffed with slow-motion montages, has a saccharine score, and its timeless themes of self-actualization, bucking societal norms, and finding one’s own way are lectured to us by the characters rather than explored through the narrative. The best thing to do would have been to place these scenes in chronological order so the new generation could actually follow the story. As it is, the uninitiated will have little reason to care. All that said, I sincerely love the scene when Meg tells Jo, “Just because my dreams are different from yours doesn’t make them unimportant”. It’s a great line and message for people young and old.
Despite a mostly strong cast, handsome costuming, and good intentions, I feel Greta Gerwig’s Little Women shortchanges its characters, themes, and story through needless time jumps, a saccharine score, and lethargic pacing. Gerwig intends this version to connect with my generation, but I don’t think they’ll care. Skip it, and watch the 1994 version on Amazon Prime now for free. While not flawless, it’s shorter, more effective, and you won’t have to pay theater prices. Skip Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.
Rated PG for Thematic Elements and Brief Smoking