Critics say Saoirse Ronan's fourth Oscar nod is 'inevitable' after her turn in Gerwig's latest movie.

By Joey Nolfi
November 25, 2019 at 03:10 PM EST
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Little Women is courting big-time Oscar buzz as Greta Gerwig’s ensemble adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved, oft-adapted novel scores some of the best movie reviews of 2019.

“Purists might blanche at the strenuously modern brand of feminism the movie imposes here, and the generally contemporary air that swirls over all its carriages and top hats. If Gerwig’s woke Women-hood verges on anachronism, though, it also feels fully loyal to the spirit of Alcott, a woman always well ahead of her time,” writes EW’s Leah Greenblatt in her A- review of the film, which stars Saoirse Ronan as the leader of the March sisters who come of age (via romance and the pursuit of creative passions) in 1860s New England. “And like a sort of balm too, for an era when the novel’s long-held values — courage, kindness, strength in vulnerability — still feel a lot further away than they should.”

Like many of her peers, Greenblatt praises the film’s ensemble cast — including Timothée Chalamet as the lovelorn Laurie; Florence Pugh as Amy March; Laura Dern as the girls’ mother, Marmee; and Meryl Streep as their bitter, wealthy Aunt March — though she singles out Ronan’s Jo for her “fierce, tender” demeanor that “carries nearly every scene she’s in” before predicting an “inevitable” fourth Oscar nod for the Irish actress.

IndieWire’s Kate Erbland agrees, praising Gerwig for not getting “heavy-handed or preachy in her affectionate look at the March sisters, who were always styled as very different versions of evolving womanhood, even way back in the mid-19th century” before lauding her “ambitious storytelling techniques that modernize the book’s timeless story in unexpected ways.”

Given Gerwig’s contemporary touch, writes Empire’s Helen O’Hara, the classic material the film is based on becomes timely and relevant in an age where gender equality is a hot topic on stages both social and political.

“If there were any remaining doubts that Greta Gerwig is a major talent in American cinema, put them to rest now,” she observes. “Her solo debut, Lady Bird, was a delight; this follow-up adaptation of an American classic takes an overly familiar story and makes it immediate and important and daring. In a year packed with fascinating films about women, here’s the grandmother of them all.”

Writing for Vanity Fair, Richard Lawson notes that, despite satisfying those anticipating a strong showing from the film’s spectacularly robust cast, the “film is a humbler thing than all the pomp” the casting suggested, “which likely means that, for some, Little Women will arrive as a mild let-down. Not a disappointment, really, just not quite as full a film experience as they’d hoped.”

“For others, including the many teary, sniffly people in my screening audience, the film ought to perfectly satisfy the promise created by its very existence: a strong cast works well in a charmingly mounted version of a cozy old story,” he continues.

Little Women opens Dec. 25. Read on for more review excerpts.

Leah Greenblatt (EW)
“Purists might blanche at the strenuously modern brand of feminism the movie imposes here, and the generally contemporary air that swirls over all its carriages and top hats. If Gerwig’s woke Women-hood verges on anachronism, though, it also feels fully loyal to the spirit of Alcott, a woman always well ahead of her time. And like a sort of balm too, for an era when the novel’s long-held values — courage, kindness, strength in vulnerability — still feel a lot further away than they should.”

Kate Erbland (IndieWire)
“Over 150 years since Louisa May Alcott’s beloved Little Women was first published, filmmaker Greta Gerwig’s sophomore effort makes the case that it’s as relevant as ever. Despite those lofty goals, the Lady Bird director doesn’t get heavy-handed or preachy in her affectionate look at the March sisters, who were always styled as very different versions of evolving womanhood, even way back in the mid-19th century. Instead, Gerwig’s adaptation looks at the eponymous little women through ambitious storytelling techniques that modernize the book’s timeless story in unexpected ways.”

Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair)
“In practice, Gerwig’s film is a humbler thing than all the pomp of its steady stream of casting announcements suggested. Which likely means that, for some, Little Women will arrive as a mild let-down. Not a disappointment, really, just not quite as full a film experience as they’d hoped. For others, including the many teary, sniffly people in my screening audience, the film ought to perfectly satisfy the promise created by its very existence: a strong cast works well in a charmingly mounted version of a cozy old story.”

Helen O’Hara (Empire)
“If there were any remaining doubts that Greta Gerwig is a major talent in American cinema, put them to rest now. Her solo debut, Lady Bird, was a delight; this follow-up adaptation of an American classic takes an overly familiar story and makes it immediate and important and daring. In a year packed with fascinating films about women, here’s the grandmother of them all.”

Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
“There’s nothing little about Greta Gerwig’s rich, warm, bustlingly populated and passionately devoted new tribute to Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel of sisterhood. She revives Little Women as a coming-of-age movie, a marriage comedy, a sibling-rivalry drama – and perhaps most interestingly of all, an autofictional manifesto for writing your own life. This is where fledgling author Jo March must negotiate her terms directly with her mutton-chop whiskered publisher (no agent!). She must enforce her own copyright prerogative. She must decide, having created a heroine so clearly based on herself, if a wedding is the only plausible ending to her story, which gives her a commercial bestseller and a materially comfortable life.”

Peter Debruge (Variety)
“The irony of Little Women — in light of the title, which is how Mr. March (Bob Odenkirk), who’s gone off to war and left his wife and kids to fend for themselves, fondly refers to his daughters — is that it’s not necessarily for little audiences. Yes, the book was written at the pressure of Alcott’s publisher for young female readers, but Gerwig’s version doesn’t talk down in the slightest and may in fact play better with adults, especially those who find mainstream movies too salacious and immoral. Little Women is just the opposite: a wholesome, kindhearted tale of generosity and good manners, where malicious acts occasionally occur (as when Amy destroys Jo’s novel) but not nearly as often as acts of charity (like the time the March girls offer their Christmas dinner to a starving family down the road).”

David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Graduating from an intimate portrait of the rocky rites of passage of contemporary female adolescence to a considerably larger-scale ensemble piece depicting the path to maturity of four sisters in 19th century Massachusetts, Greta Gerwig shows that her own assured transition to writer-director with 2017’s Lady Bird was no fluke. Her gratifying take on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women brings freshness, vitality and emotional nuance to source material which has been etched for generations into the popular imagination, shaking up the chronology to reinvigorate the plot’s familiar beats.”

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