New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: MOVIE REVIEW: Little Women

(Image: vanityfair.com)

(Image: vanityfair.com)

LITTLE WOMEN— 5 STARS

Not to borrow out of context from George Harrison’s Beatles lyrics, but, when it comes to Greta Gerwig as the director of Little Women, there is something in the way she moves. Scene after scene in the adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic penned by her own hand, there is an enchanting manner by which the ensemble is allowed to carry on, as it were. For every segment where a performer is hitting a mark of precision to deliver their speech, there are four or five others where Alexandre Desplat’s sumptuous score will rise, mute the conversation, and lead the audience to simply watch. The characters commiserate and move freely within their relationships and surroundings. We too then live and become absorbed in the beauty of those moments.

The endearing brilliance of Little Women is earned in those quaint sways and movements as much as, if not more than, it is by its crests of high drama. With masterful leadership and bold thematic choices applied to well-worn ideals, Greta Gerwig continuously captures an uncanny vibrancy out of a literary setting that otherwise would be frozen in stagnant despair. Every fiber and morsel of this movie swells with this sense of spirit to embed radiance in resiliency.

The titular Chatty Cathys are the four March sisters of the 1860s at different coming-of-age stages. The two youngest, Beth (newcomer Eliza Scanlan of Babyteeth) and Amy (rising star Florence Pugh), look up to their older two sisters, Jo (three-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan) and Meg (the now nearly-30 Emma Watson) with shifting notes of reverence and jealousy. With a short-sighted “tired of being poor” feeling, all four lament living within their reduced New England means during the American Civil War. The family’s pastor patriarch (Bob Odenkirk) has been away for years with little contact while his dauntless wife Marmee (Laura Dern) cares for the rapidly maturing girls.

The Marchs are not alone with the tough times. With a shared “I know what it is to want,” they are in a place to tighten their skirts and give to help a poor and struggling single mother nearby. At the same time, they are supported from above by their huffy elder aunt (a perfect feisty Meryl Streep, well within her element) and the wealthy Laurence family next door comprised of Mr. Laurence (the kindly Oscar winner Chris Cooper) and his nonconformist son Theodore (Call Me By Your Name’s Timothée Chalamet). With an alluring young man like “Laurie,” as he is called, nearby, affections grow and hearts swoon.

Swinging the chronological narrative pendulum to and fro, the plight of the March family is being remembered in episodic portions by Jo. She has moved away years later to New York City with the uphill aspirations of becoming a published writer for the discerning editor Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts, with the right amount of curmudgeon). Jo is enterprising and determined to be taken seriously.

LESSON #1: GIRLS HAVE TO GO OUT INTO THE WORLD — Independence is highly valued and celebrated with “love my liberty” in Little Women. For our central guide Jo, fond reflection forms the confidence that her own story is compelling sort that will inspire others. Despite what society deems suitable and how they are kept from property and prosperity, women are fit for more than love and marriage. They deserve to play out their ambitions. Along the same lines, Alcott’s novel itself presents a great passage on wealth that is echoed in the film in its own way:

“Money is a needful and precious thing, — and, when well used, a noble thing, — but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”

LESSON #2: NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS — In many wonderful displays, these are noble and generous people who care to hear and tread in the stories and needs of others despite their personal wants. Furthermore, respectfully knowing the arduous realities present keeps them from being truly ungrateful for what they have. That level of empathy will remain in them into their own families. When rewarded, their own pulled-up bootstraps will transform how “pretty things deserve to be enjoyed.”

LESSON #3: TO PINE, OH WHAT IT IS TO PINE — Nevertheless, even with a giving heart, the longing for deeper wants is hard to truly curb. We have multiple characters in this melodrama that pine for love, marriage, position, dreams, or freedom within their unfortunate and trying situations. The definition of “pine” reads “to yearn intensely and persistently especially for something unattainable” followed by “to lose vigor, health, or flesh.” So much of Little Women, is this languishing pursuit towards personal and emotional fulfillment.

LESSON #4: THE STRENGTH OF FAMILIAL LOVE — To borrow this time from the Greeks and a dollop of The Bible instead of the Fab Four, the level of “storge” love in this saga is exquisite. When family is in need, the annoyances and competitiveness of these sisters go away and bonds are renewed. As they say in the dialogue, “life is too short to be angry at sisters.” Once again, thanks to Gerwig’s tonal choices, you see it, plain as day, in the way the cast in character interacts. The emotional wreckage that results is incredibly genuine.

The performances of this exceptional cast make this journey of pining sacrifices and kindred challenges palpable. Saoirse Ronan accomplishes the quick wit and stubborn strength of the lead role without making it a Katharine Hepburn imitation. Timothée Chalamet uses his smiling charm at full wattage where his piercing gaze and strong words can convey soulfulness under the rude, edgy, and volatile arrogance of his romantic catalyst. Laura Dern flips the privileged acid of her Marriage Story lawyer role to play uncompromising earnestness here with complete and utter grace. Lastly and hugely, Florence Pugh is the spinal cord to Ronan’s backbone. She makes the nerves and savage passion of her tug-of-war middle daughter position stunning.

More and more, there is a pep here higher in this eighth adaptation of Alcott’s novel compared to its predecessors. Springing its winter steps, this Little Women strolls rather than plods. French Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux (Personal Shopper, A Bigger Splash) captures the textured array of period ambiance created by production designer and veteran Coen brothers collaborator Jess Gonchor. Le Saux’s framing choices are absolutely perfect and the slow-motion occasionally employed to freeze time in happy, blissful moments adds even more impact to its ravishing cinematic layers.

LESSON #5: A WOMAN’S TOUCH IN ALL THINGS — This task to recreate Little Women for the 21st century landed in the right hands, namely HER hands. Greta Gerwig’s elevated her work from Lady Bird in sweeping, grander fashion without losing any of her keen and insightful voice for humanistic commentary. To have this epic tale of powerful gender-driven truths that still resonate in the present day move with such whimsy and gumption is extraordinary and important.

And there’s the best word of all: important. The timelessness of Little Women matters. Gerwig matches the dreams of Alcott’s quote stating “Writing doesn’t confirm importance, it reflects it.” Her stewardship and screenplay deserves every compliment that can be paid. She brings forth the full vigor possible of this story and now owns the poignant love it expresses as much as Alcott.

Not to borrow out of context from George Harrison’s Beatles lyrics, but, when it comes to Greta Gerwig as the director of Little Women, there is something in the way she moves. Scene after scene in the adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic penned by her own hand, there is an enchanting manner by which the ensemble is allowed to carry on, as it were. For every segment where a performer is hitting a mark of precision to deliver their speech, there are four or five others where Alexandre Desplat’s sumptuous score will rise, mute the conversation, and lead the audience to simply watch. The characters commiserate and move freely within their relationships and surroundings. We too then live and become absorbed in the beauty of those moments.

The endearing brilliance of Little Women is earned in those quaint sways and movements as much as, if not more than, it is by its crests of high drama. With masterful leadership and bold thematic choices applied to well-worn ideals, Greta Gerwig continuously captures an uncanny vibrancy out of a literary setting that otherwise would be frozen in stagnant despair. Every fiber and morsel of this movie swells with this sense of spirit to embed radiance in resiliency.

The titular Chatty Cathys are the four March sisters of the 1860s at different coming-of-age stages. The two youngest, Beth (newcomer Eliza Scanlan of Babyteeth) and Amy (rising star Florence Pugh), look up to their older two sisters, Jo (three-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan) and Meg (the now nearly-30 Emma Watson) with shifting notes of reverence and jealousy. With a short-sighted “tired of being poor” feeling, all four lament living within their reduced New England means during the American Civil War. The family’s pastor patriarch (Bob Odenkirk) has been away for years with little contact while his dauntless wife Marmee (Laura Dern) cares for the rapidly maturing girls.

The Marchs are not alone with the tough times. With a shared “I know what it is to want,” they are in a place to tighten their skirts and give to help a poor and struggling single mother nearby. At the same time, they are supported from above by their huffy elder aunt (a perfect feisty Meryl Streep, well within her element) and the wealthy Laurence family next door comprised of Mr. Laurence (the kindly Oscar winner Chris Cooper) and his nonconformist son Theodore (Call Me By Your Name’s Timothée Chalamet). With an alluring young man like “Laurie,” as he is called, nearby, affections grow and hearts swoon.

Swinging the chronological narrative pendulum to and fro, the plight of the March family is being remembered in episodic portions by Jo. She has moved away years later to New York City with the uphill aspirations of becoming a published writer for the discerning editor Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts, with the right amount of curmudgeon). Jo is enterprising and determined to be taken seriously.

LESSON #1: GIRLS HAVE TO GO OUT INTO THE WORLD — Independence is highly valued and celebrated with “love my liberty” in Little Women. For our central guide Jo, fond reflection forms the confidence that her own story is compelling sort that will inspire others. Despite what society deems suitable and how they are kept from property and prosperity, women are fit for more than love and marriage. They deserve to play out their ambitions. Along the same lines, Alcott’s novel itself presents a great passage on wealth that is echoed in the film in its own way:

“Money is a needful and precious thing, — and, when well used, a noble thing, — but I never want you to think it is the first or only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”

LESSON #2: NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS — In many wonderful displays, these are noble and generous people who care to hear and tread in the stories and needs of others despite their personal wants. Furthermore, respectfully knowing the arduous realities present keeps them from being truly ungrateful for what they have. That level of empathy will remain in them into their own families. When rewarded, their own pulled-up bootstraps will transform how “pretty things deserve to be enjoyed.”

LESSON #3: TO PINE, OH WHAT IT IS TO PINE — Nevertheless, even with a giving heart, the longing for deeper wants is hard to truly curb. We have multiple characters in this melodrama that pine for love, marriage, position, dreams, or freedom within their unfortunate and trying situations. The definition of “pine” reads “to yearn intensely and persistently especially for something unattainable” followed by “to lose vigor, health, or flesh.” So much of Little Women, is this languishing pursuit towards personal and emotional fulfillment.

LESSON #4: THE STRENGTH OF FAMILIAL LOVE — To borrow this time from the Greeks and a dollop of The Bible instead of the Fab Four, the level of “storge” love in this saga is exquisite. When family is in need, the annoyances and competitiveness of these sisters go away and bonds are renewed. As they say in the dialogue, “life is too short to be angry at sisters.” Once again, thanks to Gerwig’s tonal choices, you see it, plain as day, in the way the cast in character interacts. The emotional wreckage that results is incredibly genuine.

The performances of this exceptional cast make this journey of pining sacrifices and kindred challenges palpable. Saoirse Ronan accomplishes the quick wit and stubborn strength of the lead role without making it a Katharine Hepburn imitation. Timothée Chalamet uses his smiling charm at full wattage where his piercing gaze and strong words can convey soulfulness under the rude, edgy, and volatile arrogance of his romantic catalyst. Laura Dern flips the privileged acid of her Marriage Story lawyer role to play uncompromising earnestness here with complete and utter grace. Lastly and hugely, Florence Pugh is the spinal cord to Ronan’s backbone. She makes the nerves and savage passion of her tug-of-war middle daughter position stunning.

More and more, there is a pep here higher in this eighth adaptation of Alcott’s novel compared to its predecessors. Springing its winter steps, this Little Women strolls rather than plods. French Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux (Personal Shopper, A Bigger Splash) captures the textured array of period ambiance created by production designer and veteran Coen brothers collaborator Jess Gonchor. Le Saux’s framing choices are absolutely perfect and the slow-motion occasionally employed to freeze time in happy, blissful moments adds even more impact to its ravishing cinematic layers.

LESSON #5: A WOMAN’S TOUCH IN ALL THINGS — This task to recreate Little Women for the 21st century landed in the right hands, namely HER hands. Greta Gerwig’s elevated her work from Lady Bird in sweeping, grander fashion without losing any of her keen and insightful voice for humanistic commentary. To have this epic tale of powerful gender-driven truths that still resonate in the present day move with such whimsy and gumption is extraordinary and important.

And there’s the best word of all: important. The timelessness of Little Women matters. Gerwig matches the dreams of Alcott’s quote stating “Writing doesn’t confirm importance, it reflects it.” Her stewardship and screenplay deserves every compliment that can be paid. She brings forth the full vigor possible of this story and now owns the poignant love it expresses as much as Alcott.

Permalink

from REVIEW BLOG – Every Movie Has a Lesson https://ift.tt/33mJq1Y
via IFTTT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s