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Everything Right About ‘Little Women’

Greta Gerwig’s version of Little Women had to be the best Christmas present that period-piece film-lovers have ever gotten. I have to admit, despite a lovely cast (Timothée Chalamet as Laurie couldn’t have been more perfect), I had my reservations before entering the theater that day. I mean, how well could the movie go if it’s already been remade five times previously, and has even had its own amazing PBS series? There’s no doubt that Gerwig already knew that these kinds of thoughts would go through the audiences’ minds, especially since the 1994 version was so iconic that it’s almost impossible not to compare the two- yet she effectively gives our generation exactly what it needs from a classically feminist tale like Little Women.

I must warn you that this article does have spoilers. If you’ve seen other versions, have also read the book, or just consider yourself a Little Women expert overall, reading this article without seeing the 2019 film would be spoiling yourself a uniquely heart-warming experience for yourself. Clearly the movie is amazing enough for me to write a whole article about it, so go watch it!  If you have seen the movie, then you know what I’m talking about when I thank Gerwig for starting the story in reverse. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the other versions, but I was definitely comparing this new one to the 1994 one. There’s a reason why the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder as Jo was nominated for not one, not two, but three Academy Awards. While the 1994 version will forever be in my heart, the 2019 remake rectifies a lot of my issues with the older film. By starting the story in reverse, we get to reflect on Jo’s childhood alongside her. As someone coming out of youth and entering the adult stage of my life, this tactic just made the movie ten times more relatable than ever, which I previously thought was impossible, because the themes of Little Women are already universal and timeless. By jumping from past to present, we can better connect the dots as to why the characters are the way they’ve become, rather than being simple observers eager to see how they all end up.

Gerwig’s version also attempts to make each of the sisters multi-dimensional. By spending more time with each of them, especially Amy, we not only root for the main protagonist, Jo, but for all of the March sisters. Maybe I’m biased towards Amy because I’m the youngest of all my sisters, but this movie didn’t make me annoyed at her as much as the 1994 version did. In fact, I grew to like her and identify with her character the most out of everyone in the film. This goes hand-in-hand with how the film isn’t in chronological order, as we get to see that Amy has matured into a realist and her decision to marry Laurie wasn’t selfish or a product of her endless rivalry with Jo. Gerwig also made her Amy a little older than Kirsten Dunst’s Amy, which makes more sense to me regarding her love for Laurie. It wasn’t just some young schoolgirl type of crush. She actually did have as many meaningful feelings towards Laurie as he had for Jo. An older Amy from the beginning also makes their eventual coupling a lot less weird and awkward to think about than if Laurie had spent time with a young pre-pubescent Amy, and then fell in love with her later.  

My favorite part about Gerwig’s version of Little Women is that Jo represented and clearly addressed the ongoing dilemma that many of today’s women seem to increasingly have. Saoirse Ronan delivered a tear-jerking mini-monologue explaining her frustration with wanting independence as a woman and not wanting her worth to be all about love and marriage, yet still feeling incredibly lonely. By addressing this issue, Gerwig’s Little Women assures us that it isn’t wrong to feel this kind of inner conflict, that it isn’t a bad thing to simply want to be loved. You can re-watch this amazing scene here if you’d like. Little Women will probably never stop being so relatable, especially if it keeps being remade for every generation to watch. I hope it is. I can’t wait until it’s available for me to buy or stream, so I can watch it endlessly if I’m ever in the mood for a cry-fest (which is like all the time, to be honest). 

Hayley is currently a fourth-year student at UC Davis, majoring in Human Development with a minor in Communication. You can often find her listening to True Crime podcasts, watching classic movies (yet, her true favorite is 'Ratatouille'), and obsessing over cats.