Saoirse Ronan's Jo protests against a culture that requires all women to conform to its vision of the "perfect woman" in one of many lovely moments worth recalling in Greta Gerwig's Little Women.
"Women have thoughts and souls, in addition to mere hearts.
And they have ambition, skill, and beauty, and I'm sick of people claiming that love is the only thing a woman is capable of. "
"I'm so sick of it," she sobs to Marmee.
Gerwig borrows this remark from another Louisa May Alcott work, Rose in Bloom, rather than Little Women.
What distinguishes her recounting from all others, though, is indicated by the final phrase she adds:
"But I am so lonely."
Literature that is 150 years old has never seemed more alive.
Greta Gerwig's frantic, clamorous rendition of Little Women is a remarkable accomplishment.
Gerwig is appreciative of the original material – most of the language is pulled directly from Louisa May Alcott's classic novel – while also ensuring that her own unique touch is acknowledged.
Gerwig creates something that is both true to its roots and shockingly current by stimulating merry chaos of intertwining personalities and performances – restructuring the timeline into a multilayered playground where the child and adult stories interact – and subtly legitimizing existing themes of female fulfillment and the economics of inventiveness.
She has modernized the text to address a universal conflict: our incapacity to be alone, self-sufficient, and joyful.
This is one of several relevant subversions to give a 19th-century story a new perspective.
Though it reveals the practicality and economic realities of nineteenth-century women, it is not as bleak as it seems.
It is, in fact, as soul-stirring and life-affirming as the movie gets.
It's also a picture that lets its literary predecessor paint its universe with lovely brushstrokes and is all the better for it.
Although not to its framework, the movie stays true to Alcott's plot.
The work is divided into two chapters that follow the four March sisters from childhood to adulthood in nineteenth-century Massachusetts.
Gerwig jumps immediately into the second act of the well-known narrative, with no unnecessary introduction.
Jo went to New York to become a writer, but she is obliged to crank out filthy potboilers to make ends meet and send money home.
Amy is attempting to realize her ambition of being "the best painter in the world" while living with Aunt March in Paris when she bumps into an old acquaintance, Laurie.
Meg is a married woman with two children, but her husband cannot afford to purchase her all of the lovely clothing she wishes.
Meanwhile, Beth stays bedridden, becoming weaker by the day.
The film swings back and forth between the present and the past, with Gerwig providing thematic context through flashbacks to events that molded the March sisters' childhoods.
"I can never wish you greater happiness than this!"
Greta Gerwig's cinematic adaptation captures the ageless and universal nature of Louisa May Alcott's story.
While the plot is set in 1868 America, the film feels contemporary and might take place in any region of the world today.
It's a sophisticated and fresh, if not altogether innovative, reimagining of the beloved classic.
Take, for example, the slice of siblinghood, which, together with the feminist themes and turmoil, is what Gerwig chooses to direct the audience's attention to.
The rivalry between the sisters, the game of one-upmanship, their conflicts that range from cordial to vicious — all of this is something that many sets of brothers and sisters have experienced up close.
Then there's the articulation of the injustice and skew in family dynamics - how one sibling is constantly stuck with family chores while the other gets off relatively lightly in life.
Above all, there is an outpouring of love, concern, and care that addresses the conflicts and replenishes the bonds.
The four young ladies, who are diametrically opposed to one another, also serve as a warning of the dangers of categorizing women or refusing to see them beyond the exaggerated clichés of good and bad.
Despite having a surname, family, and home, the women's experiences, hopes, wishes, and ambitions are diverse.
Little Women is a gesture to accepting and embracing gender diversity within the gender and not passing judgment, especially when it comes to women.
She is aided by a fantastic ensemble, with an astounding Ronan nailing the challenges of a girl like Jo March and the surprise Pugh fleshing out Amy to a more complicated character than in the novel.
Laurie, played by Chalamet, is the next-door boy, representing a delicate romantic ideal that females have been trained to adore.
This superb cast includes Streep as the curmudgeonly and ruthlessly practical elderly Aunt March, Dern as Mother March, Watson as the oldest March sister Meg, and Scanlen as the sickly Beth March.
"Little Women" is full of silliness and grief, sweetness and warmth, but it never minimizes or apologizes.
It does not disparage or dismiss the March family's devotion to social justice, civic duty, and creative quality.
All of them, according to Alcott, were part of the status quo of American culture.
Gerwig is well aware that they still are.
And so is this type of entertainment: generous, honest, full of critical intelligence and genuine passion, self-aware without a trace of cynicism, based in the particulars of life, and accessible to everybody.
Don't be fooled by the short title. "Little Women" is a classic.
It seems appropriate to end with Alcott's final sentence:
"I can never wish you greater happiness than this!"
Author: Akash R. Ekka
Editor: Rachita Biswas