- 13 Jan 20
GRETA GERWIG BRINGS NEW VITALITY TO MUCH-LOVED TALE
In Greta Gerwig's warm, witty and wise coming-of-age story, Lady Bird, Saoirse Ronan asks her disappointed mother an important, heartbreaking question: "What if this is the best possible version of myself?" In Gerwig's adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women, she again examines the lives of young women grappling with the idea of what being the best version of themselves looks like, in a world full of contradictory messages.
Gerwig's adaptation shuffles the book's chronology, beginning as headstrong Jo (Ronan) is living in New York, selling stories to a newspaper. Jo's lifelong dream of becoming a writer has technically been achieved – but she's not happy. The stories she sells are vapid potboilers that follow her editor's demand that any female characters should end up "married by the end – or dead." She and her family are struggling financially. And despite living in New York, she has yet to find anyone who appreciates her ambition and wild spirit.
Doubting herself and trying to imagine her future, Jo looks back to the past – and it's both poignant and jarring. The intertwined timelines are evocative, as the glowing cinematography of memory captures Jo's mischievous, misfit connection with the romantic boy next door, Laurie (Timothee Chalamet); thoughtful Meg's (Emma Watson) growing love for a poor tutor (James Norton); and impetuous Amy's increasing awareness that her ability to marry rich may be her family's only path to financial stability. Meanwhile, the grey present shows the harder reality of the March sisters' lives, in a world offering little support to women.
This restructuring deepens the emotional complexity of each sister's choice, adding new stakes to a well-known plot as the March sisters ask themselves a version of Lady Bird's question.
The performances are wonderful: Ronan's Jo is fiery, stubborn and overflowing with emotion, while Florence Pugh's Amy is defiant and intelligent. However, the timeline shuffling can rush emotional moments slightly, leaving frail Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Jo's admirer Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel) underwritten. The sumptuous production design and costuming also undercut the sense of financial insecurity hovering over the family.
But Gerwig has captured the vitality, the chemistry, the ever-present but evolving love these characters have for each other – and the love audiences have for these characters. A radiant, huge-hearted film that embraces the messy beauty of growing up.