Ronan flat out wonderful in ‘Little Women’

By Chic DiCiccio

It’s hard to believe that “Little Women” is just Greta Gerwig’s second movie as a director. Not only does this adorable movie have a completely different tone than her first, “Lady Bird,” it’s a period piece that Gerwig manages to feel like a modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic Civil War novel. It does help that Gerwig gets yet another fantastic performance from Saorise Ronan, who is assured a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Saoirse Ronan (left) and Timothée Chalamet in “Little Women.”
Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Gerwig’s cast is also as perfect as possible. Her script allows for each actress to perfectly pin down the defining characteristics of each of the March sisters, which is easily the most charming and fun aspect of the movie. Gerwig does choose to bounce back and forth in time, which is slightly distracting at times, but the format works for the most part. 

Most people are familiar with the story and the characters in “Little Women” and it’s up to the filmmaker to choose how to tell it. Ronan is a perfect fit for the strong-willed, struggling writer Jo March, who feels like her writing is being held back by the fact that she’s a woman and the restrictive nature of the time. 

There are massive personality differences between Jo and her sisters, which makes their relationships burn hot and cold like typical siblings. The oldest, Meg (Emma Watson), is the most practical and, sadly, the most boring. Amy (Florence Pugh) is in the awkward spot of being not old enough to hang with her two older sisters, but a bit too old to be the playmate of the youngest sister, Beth (Eliza Scanlen). 

Mrs. March (Laura Dern) holds down the fort while her husband is away at war while wealthy Aunt March (Meryl Streep) mainlines advice to her nieces that isn’t exactly kind or wise. Of course, all the girls (except for Jo) pine for their rich neighbor, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), who is equal parts charming and reckless. 

So far, that’s all pretty standard “Little Women” material, but Gerwig smartly throws a few curve balls. She thankfully removes the romance between Jo and her professor and replaces it with something much more fulfilling and, well, lovely. Gerwig actually creates an almost meta-world that critiques the need for every story written in the Civil War era to have a happy ending, which Jo resists … but Gerwig takes us all there anyway. It’s actually quite precious, almost to a fault. 

Gerwig is truly a creative force, but “Little Women” is solidified as one of the year’s best due to Ronan and Pugh’s masterclass in character acting. Pugh is delightfully spiteful, acting out in ways that should make you despise her, yet she somehow remains perfectly lovely. Without a doubt, there’s a Best Supporting Actress nomination in her future. 

One would assume that there is a lot of pressure in playing an iconic character such as Jo Marsh. It doesn’t appear that anyone told that to Ronan. She is flat out wonderful and makes a stubborn, headstrong character an absolute delight. She’s headstrong and stubborn, but an underdog whom audiences will love to root for. 

Gerwig smartly turned “Little Women” into an adaptation, modern social commentary and what is clearly personal inspiration for her own career. 

This is the seventh adaptation of Alcott’s novel and there’s not a chance that the eighth could possibly be any better.