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"Little Women" Captures What It Means to Be a Woman in a Man's World

The Greta Gerwig remake will make you fall in love with each March sister—including Amy.
"Little Women" Captures What It Means to Be a Woman in a Man's World
IMAGE COURTESY of Columbia Pictures
The Greta Gerwig remake will make you fall in love with each March sister—including Amy.

The marketing strategy for the 2019 movie adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale Little Women strays from the usual one-time premiere. The local distributor plans to arrange two advanced screenings in select theaters a week before the film appears in cinemas nationwide. This marketing strategy relies on word of mouth and the idea that the initial movie-goers will rave about the Greta Gerwig-directed film and persuade their friends to watch it. They’re not wrong to put this much confidence in the movie. The film is very much worth an afternoon’s discussion with friends.

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Greta’s Little Women absolutely cannot be compared to the 1994 version starring Wynona Rider as Jo March (and Kirsten Dunst as the infamous Amy March). It’s a completely different animal and tackles contemporary themes that women have faced during the American Civil War and continue to face in the present. Like in Ladybird, the director ensures that her viewers are left with something to ponder on when they get home. Direct spoilers aside, this adaptation deviates from the original story to accommodate this message.

What I Liked About It

It gave each March sister deeper context.

While Jo March still remains as the leading character, audiences get a better sense of who each March sister is. There’s the eldest, Meg, who is launched into society and can succumb to social pressures at times but is also very practical. Then there’s the meek and musical Beth, whose charitable heart takes after their mother. Finally, there’s the firecracker, Amy. She’s bratty but also has a good head on her shoulders and understands her position enough to know that she has to worker harder than everyone else to provide for her own needs. Audiences will get to understand each of the three other sisters more and sympathize with them⁠—including Amy.

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It tackles the oppression of the patriarchal society in 1860s America.

The script doesn’t hold back on what it’s like to be an American woman during the time of the civil war. No matter how talented or skilled they were, women did not get due recognition. Jo would be paid less than male writers; her editor would expect her to write happy endings which meant that her female characters must be wed. Meanwhile, Aunt March would constantly stress the importance of marrying well. Ultimately, it was in the existence and publishing of Louisa May Alcott’s novel about domestic life that women like the March sisters are able to have their final word in the matter. Their stories were told, displaying just how significant these women’s lives were.

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The production did a wonderful job bringing this cast together.

Every character big or small, from Laura Dern’s warm-hearted Marmee to Meryl Streep’s stern Aunt March, is memorable. While many have had the chance to witness Saoirse Ronan’s award-winning acting chops in films such as Brooklyn and Ladybird, it was Florence Pugh who stepped up her game and was on par with the other seasoned actors on the cast, despite only breaking through to Hollywood in the last two years.

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What I Didn’t Like About It

The Laurie and Amy romance seemed rush.

While Laurie and Amy’s engagement was more fleshed out and given ample screen time in Greta’s version, this viewer would have wanted more time for neighbour Laurie to transition from loving Jo to falling in love with Amy.

The timelines overlap and may get confusing.

There are two timelines in the film: one in the present, and the other a flashback of when the girls all lived in the house together. The timelines eventually converge, but it could get a little messy at times. Otherwise, the editing and juxtaposition of scenes will keep viewers on their toes and there’s never a dull, passing moment since audiences will have to engage themselves to fully comprehend what’s going on in the film.

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So Should You Watch It?

Whether or not you enjoyed devouring the novel or watching the 1994 film as a child, this movie presents viewers with something to take home and chew on. And while we live in different time periods from the March sisters, Little Women inserts a message befitting for our times. There are many unnecessary remakes these days, but this film is not one of them.

Little Women will be in cinemas nationwide on February 19.

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