Bethlehem Press

Saturday, January 18, 2020
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY COLUMBIA PICTURES“Little Women,” the March sisters, from left, Eliza Scanlen (Beth), Saoirse Ronan (Jo), Emma Watson (Meg) and Florence Pugh (Amy). CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY COLUMBIA PICTURES“Little Women,” the March sisters, from left, Eliza Scanlen (Beth), Saoirse Ronan (Jo), Emma Watson (Meg) and Florence Pugh (Amy).

Movie Review: ‘Women’ on the March

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

It’s called “Little Women,” not “Little Girls.”

The latest theatrical movie version of “Little Women” is directed by Greta Gerwig, who wrote the screenplay based on the novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888).

Published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, the novel is about the journey from childhood to womanhood of the March sisters: Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth. The novel, which Alcott based on herself and her three sisters, was a commercial success and critically-acclaimed.

In addition to stage plays and television shows and TV series, the novel has been adapted into seven theatrical motion pictures, including two silent films in 1917 and 1918.

Perhaps the best-known version is the 1933 movie directed by George Cukor that starred Katharine Hepburn (Jo), Frances Dee (Meg), Joan Bennett (Amy) and Jean Parker (Beth).

A 1949 movie version directed by Mervyn LeRoy starred June Allyson (Jo), Janet Leigh (Meg), Elizabeth Taylor (Amy) and Margaret O’Brien (Beth).

A 1994 movie version directed by Gillian Armstrong starred Winona Ryder (Jo), Trini Alvarado (Meg). Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis (as the young and older Amy, respectively) and Claire Danes (Beth).

Gerwig’s version of “Little Women” is stunning. It’s romantic, humorous, heartfelt and highly-recommended for fans of Gerwig, the actors and Louisa May Alcott’s novel.

“Little Women,” a kind of Hollywood cottage industry, is a leitmotif for each era in which it’s produced. Gerwig’s interpretation could be titled “Belittled Women.” The screenplay underscores the dilemma of mid-1800s females, as for example in the following monologue:

Jo March: “Women, they have minds and they have souls as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty, and I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for.”

Gerwig’s adaptation stars as the March sisters: Saoirse Ronan (Jo), Emma Watson (Meg), Florence Pugh (Amy) and Eliza Scanlen (Beth).

Ronan (three-time Oscar nominee: actress, “Lady Bird,” 2017; actress, “Brooklyn,” 2016; supporting actress, “Atonement,” 2007) is vibrant and contemplative. Pugh is feisty and intense.

The excellent cast includes Meryl Streep (Aunt March), Laura Dern (Marmee March), Timothée Chalamet (Theodore “Laurie” Laurence), Tracy Letts (Mr. Dashwood), Bob Odenkirk (Father March), James Norton (John Brooke), Louis Garrel (Fredrich Bhaer), Jayne Houdyshell (Hannah) and Chris Cooper (Mr. Laurence).

Gerwig, noted for indie film acting roles (“Mistress America,” 2015; “Frances Ha,” 2012), got her start in mumblecore (so named because the films’ budgets were too low for good quality audio), most infamously, “Hannah Takes The Stairs,” 2007, and directed the indie films, “Lady Bird” and “Nights And Weekends” (2008).

Gerwig captures the cusp of youths on the verge of adulthood with the inherent joy, trepidation and sensitivity in scenes between the main characters and swirling, exuberant dance scenes. “Little Women” is darn fun.

The film has gorgeous cinematography by Director of Photography Yorick Le Saux, a French cinematographer (“Personal Shopper,” 2016; “Clouds of Sils Maria,” 2014; “Only Lovers Left Alive,” 2013).

The film, set during the Civil War, in Concord, Mass., has authentic-looking exterior and interior settings and beautiful costumes by Jacqueline Durran (Oscar recipient, “Anna Karenina,” 2012; five-time Oscar nominee, including “Pride & Prejudice,” 2005).

“Little Women” is a remarkable accomplishment for Gerwig, a sort of coming-of-age for her as a director, and vaults her into the ranks of major Hollywood directors.

“Little Women,” snubbed by the 2020 Golden Globes with the exception of an actress nomination for Ronan, which she didn’t win, and an original score nomination for Alexandre Desplat (nine-time Oscar original-score nominee; two-time Oscar original-score recipient, “The Shape of Water,” 2018; “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” 2015), who also didn’t win, received six Oscar nominations: picture, leading actress (Ronan), supporting actress (Pugh), adapted screenplay (Gerwig), costume design (Durran) and score (Desplat).

“Little Women” is nominated for a Producers Guild of America theatrical motion picture award. Gerwig is nominated for a Writers Guild of America adapted screenplay award.

Awards aside, don’t miss “Little Women.” It’s much more than a “chick flick,” as it’s been tagged. Men and women can equally enjoy it, and even become better persons for having seen it.

“Little Women,” MPAA rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance.” May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.) for thematic elements and brief smoking; Genre: Drama, Romance; Run time: 2 hr., 15 min. Distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Box Office, Jan. 10-12: A film about a real war, that of World War I, “1917,” moved up 16 places to No. 1 in wide-release, $36.5 million, $39.2 million, three weeks, knocking “Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker” from its three-week straight No. 1 run, dropping one place to No. 2 with $15 million, $478.1 million, four weeks, as “Jumanji: The Next Level” dropped one place to No. 3 with $14 million, $257.1 million, five weeks, as “Like A Boss” opened at No. 4 with $10 million, and “Just Mercy” moved up 24 places to No. 5 in wide-release, with $10 million, $10.4 million, three weeks.

6. “Little Women” dropped three places, $7.6 million, $74 million, three weeks. 7. “Underwater,” $7 million, one week, opening. 8. “Frozen II” dropped four places, $5.7 million, $459.3 million, eight weeks. 9. “Knives Out” dropped two places, $5.7 million, $139.6 million, seven weeks. 10. ”Spies In Disguise” dropped four places, $5.1 million, $54.6 million three weeks.

Unreel, Jan. 17:

“Bad Boys for Life,” R: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah direct Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the Action Comedy. In the third installment, the Bad Boys reunite for what’s said to be one last ride.

“Dolittle,” PG: Stephen Gaghan directs Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen and Jim Broadbent in the Fantasy Comedy remake about the doctor who claims he can talk to the animals.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes