Director/Screenwriter: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlon, Timothee Chalamet
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements and brief smoking
Release Date: 12/25/19 (Wide Theatrical); only available to rent/buy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
It is difficult for me to compare Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel to others, seeing as I have not seen any of them in their entirety. And, I have not read the book, so my review of the Saoirse Ronan-starring adaptation is based purely on Gerwig’s film, which I absolutely loved. Gerwig, who wowed us with her directorial debut, Lady Bird, has crafted a terrifically endearing, sometimes sad, yet often entertaining, story of four sisters living in Massachusetts at the end of (and after) the Civil War.
Sure, there is romance, but it is far from overly sentimental; besides, the main relationship is the one among the sisters — who are, ironically, all played by non-American actresses. Ronan is fantastic, as always, bringing as much passion and warmth to the role of Jo March as she has to her previous roles; I would be both surprised and disappointed if she does not receive her Fourth Oscar nomination for this role. (Note: she did). Florence Pugh, as the says-whatever-is-on-her-mind Amy, is also terrific, and the real scene stealer of the movie; the fact that she can excel in scenes with Meryl Streep (who has a very small, almost cameo-like role) is testament to her raw talent. (Note: her Oscar nomination was well-deserved). Emma Watson is good as eldest March sister Meg, and Eliza Scanlen is perfectly fine as shy, doomed youngest sister Beth. Laura Dern is solid, as always, as the March matriarch. (Note: even better the in her Oscar-winning performance in Marriage Story). And, let us not forget the inimitable and crazy talented Timothee Chalamet, Ronan’s Lady Bird cast mate, who this time is the one wooing Ronan’s Jo. The women of this movie have received the bulk of the praise, yet Chalamet’s performance is similarly memorable.
The structure of the film is probably different from that of previous iterations, but there shouldn’t be any confusion between the past and present-day [in the story] scenes. Gerwig — who also wrote the script — distinguishes between the two timelines via the characters’ hairstyles, outfits, and cinematography. And, as a warning, you will need tissues.