tue 04/08/2020

Blu-ray/DVD: Little Women | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray/DVD: Little Women

Blu-ray/DVD: Little Women

A fresh new adaptation is a fantasy in clothes and feminism

Eliza Scanlen, Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, Florence Pugh

For the average female millennial, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is the perfect film to watch in lockdown. Brought up on Winona Ryder’s Jo March, then Gerwig’s Frances Ha in our teen years, we never expected this blessing but are most ardently grateful for it. Even the clothes are echoes of Batsheva and Shrimps dresses, the aesthetic social currency of affluent girls in their late twenties. This relevancy is both Little Women’s strength and the source of its only bum notes.

The feminist aspect of the book has been drawn out, with lines mostly delivered by Saoirse Ronan’s Jo and Florence Pugh’s Amy, but these can feel almost cringingly on the nose. In particular, there is a point where the contemporaneous financial and legal status of women is explained, which feels a little preachy. 

However, otherwise the film is a delight, and a well-executed remake. It feels fresh (partly because it deviates at points from the book) and is very good at depicting the relationship between siblings, especially sisters. They fight horribly and are split by deep resentments but will always love and care for one another. Jo and Amy are shown particularly well, as sisters who are deeply connected but at times tear each other apart.

The female relationships are truly at the heart of this film, moving the centre away from the returning father, who has previously felt like the focus. It is Beth’s death which forms the pivot for the plot, for Jo’s return and her re-examination of her life. Furthermore, the romantic scenes are all led by the women. When Laurie propose to Jo, it is more like an accusation, or a whine, and their difficult partnership is shown in an excellently nuanced way.

One of the strongest moments of Little Women is the end. Throughout, there is an acknowledgement that we know all about the plot, with Meg’s marriage to Mr. Brooke shown before their courtship. This allows Gerwig to play with the timeline and make her own alterations. Then, when Jo reaches her romantic peak, it is unclear as to whether this is fictional or real within the context of the film. Here we see Jo as Alcott herself, who never married, despite giving her character a romantic ending in the book. 

Also included with the disc are various behind the scenes looks at the cast, the process of creating the film, makeup etc., and a feature on Alcott’s life. These all tie into the interests of this adaptation and are a good illustration of its marriage of historical authenticity and modern feel.

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