“Little Women” Makes its Own Way in the World


“I intend to make my own way in this world,” Jo Marsh boldly proclaims in Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic 1868 novel “Little Women.” Like Jo, we need to make our own ways in the world. “We” as in women, “we” as in the American society, “we” as young adults transitioning into adulthood. But we aren’t going to have it easy, and “Little Women” reminds us of the need to persevere.

I’m not the only one falling in love with this revived classic. “Little Women” opened Christmas Day and has grossed over $147 million worldwide. The film has 8.2/10 on IMDb and scored 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. So far, “Little Women” has won 62 of its 165 award nominations, and fans are looking forward to the 2020 Oscars to see if writer-director Greta Gerwig will win her nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Florence Pugh, who plays Amy March, is also nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Despite this excitement, audiences still wonder if the film deserves more recognition.“What women are allowed into the club of geniuses anyway?” Laurie asks Amy in the film. He has a point, even today.

Historically, women directors have been left out of major motion picture awards. This year, the nominees for Best Director are all dudes. Notable women left out of the selection are Lorene Scafaria for “Hustlers,” Marielle Heller for “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood,” Lulu Wang for “The Farewell,” Olivia Wilde for “Booksmart,” and of course Greta Gerwig for “Little Women.”

Amy perfectly responds to this timeless problem: “The world is hard on ambitious girls.”

So long as the world is hard on ambitious girls, “Little Women” will be relevant. It has been adapted into many films (the main ones in 1918, 1933, 1949, 1994 and the latest in 2019). Each adaptation reflects the time period in which it was made. For example, according to YouTube movie reviewer Be Kind Rewind, George Cukor’s 1933 adaptation during the Great Depression highlights the girls’ selflessness when they use the money their Aunt March gives them to support their mother Marmee instead of themselves. In the 1949 adaptation by Mervyn LeRoy, military service was a much larger theme, which audiences appreciated following World War II.

So, what’s so special about the 2019 adaptation? Inspiration. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Gerwig said, “As a girl who wanted to be a writer, Jo March was my North Star.” In our current era of anxiety and pressure, it’s nice, even essential, to have someone to look up to.

This isn’t just an “eat your vegetables” kind of movie either. The acting is superb. Saoirse Ronan as Jo March and Timothée Chalamet as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence — who also worked together in Gerwig’s 2018 film “Lady Bird” — have magical chemistry. During the monumental scene when Jo rejects Laurie’s romantic love, Chalamet expresses such a strong desire to kiss her. At the same time, he’s trying but failing to hold back his pain.

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, Chalamet asserts Ronan’s best scene was when Jo had to gather herself after learning that Laurie and her younger sister Amy unexpectedly married.

Oh, the heartbreak!

On the other hand, Emma Watson’s terrible American accent distracted from the precise flow and rhythm of the movie. All four actresses who played March sisters are not American, though Watson is the only one who can’t quite seem to get the accent down.

Can we forgive this minor error and enjoy the film for what it is — an absolute masterpiece? Of course.

Don’t be discouraged by underrepresentation and systemic challenges. Look at Jo, look at Amy, look at Greta Gerwig — that can be you! “Little Women” was created in 1869 and readapted in 2019 for this very purpose. Go make your own way in the world!