5 Reasons to watch ‘Little Women’
Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of L. M. Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ was released in South Africa on 21st February. The hype was not exaggerated and it was definitely worth the wait.
The movie is imbued with such life, colour and emotion it's as if the literary characters have come alive and literally stepped off the page and onto the screen.
By reading the book first, you enter the movie reconnecting with these characters as friends. You also have personal insight and understanding into little things they do - Amy pinching her nose and Beth feeding her dolls - which enriches the experience.
If you have not read the book, that is OK - your journey in getting to know the March sisters and their personal coming of age stories will still be an immensely rewarding one.
The movie is clever, charming, spirited, delightful,
poignant and witty - from beginning to end.
You will smile, laugh, dance, and cry heartfelt tears with the characters. The rave reviews from all quarters are justified, and ‘Little Women’ is a timely commentary and reminder of the beauty of ‘old fashioned’ values and ‘outdated’ social sensibilities. This is way more than just a story or literary classic. It will change your world and stir your sense of self-awareness and introspection.
If you are not yet convinced, here are 5 reasons to go and watch ‘Little Women:’
#1 Because of Jo, her love for books, and a dose of ambition and sacrificial duty:
The movie opens and closes with the free-spirited and headstrong protagonist, Jo, the second eldest March sister. She is a passionate force of nature characterised by ambitious independence.
As a writer, she is determined to make her own way in a world that belittles women, their aspirations and talents.
Jo boldly and unapologetically renounces societal views that undervalue women. And yet she also acknowledges the resulting downside to her single-minded desire for personal success and self-sufficiency. This tension is beautifully and cleverly portrayed, and satisfyingly resolved.
‘Women have minds and souls as well as just hearts, and they’ve got ambition and talent as well as just beauty, and I’m sick of people saying that love is all a woman is fit for…'
'But I am so lonely.’
One of Jo’s many strengths is her determination and sacrificial sense of duty to help her mother, and provide for her family while her father is away doing his duty for the Union Army during the the American civil war.
This sense of duty and responsibility, however, is never at the expense of Jo’s personality and individuality. Her fiery nature is, in fact, what makes her self-sacrifice so admirable.
Greta Gerwig successfully gets this right in the film: individuality never needs to be sacrificed on the altar of social expectation and stereotype, and she intricately weaves this theme through each character and scene.
Doing the right thing is not portrayed as a good thing,
but as a beautiful thing.
Duty does not strip you of aspects of your identity, and a sense of responsibility does not mean giving up parts of who you are. Rather, it means you reap the reward of gaining something from each interaction and becoming a better and more enriched version of who you are because of your service to others.
#2 Because of Meg, her love for beautiful things, and a dose of genuine love and commitment:
Meg, the eldest of the March sisters, has a charitable heart and loves beautiful things, but comes to the realisation that the love and commitment of a kind man, who may be poor, are worth way more than an insincere world of luxury and wealth.
Her dreams of motherhood and marrying for love are never portrayed as ‘less than,’ but put forth as beautiful, significant and fulfilling expressions of womanhood.
This refreshing perspective shines forth in Meg’s clear admonition of Jo:
‘Just because my dreams are different than yours,
it doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.’
In this powerful statement, Meg reminds us that all forms of womanhood matter, and Gerwig again highlights the delicate and nuanced expressions of individuality, creativity and feminine empowerment which cause us to pause.
Meg’s youthful desire to be part of wealthy society slowly morphs and matures as she gains self awareness. In one scene, her contentment is challenged and tested when swayed by a bolt of green fabric for a new dress.
But the weightier and nobler values of devotion to her husband, and a willingness to endure hardship for her family, win the day against the superficiality and temporary nature of beautiful things.
#3 Because of Beth, her love for music, and a dose of gentle selflessness:
This is where you will need tissues, not in a soppy, sentimental way, but because of the poignant and heartbreaking fragility of life that Gerwig delicately portrays though Beth’s various interactions - especially with Mr Lawrence and with Jo.
Beth is the quiet peacemaker, content in the background, allowing her sisters to take centre stage.
Her devotion to her sisters is unsurpassed and her selflessness and uncomplaining spirit make her a feminine heroine in her own right.
‘It’s like the tide going out. It rolls out slowly,
but it can’t be stopped.’
The childlike innocence of Beth, combined with an ‘old soul’ maturity, form some of the movie’s deepest reflective scenes, and the most sobering and moving of encounters.
Beth's gentle role brings a tender gravitas to the plot that results in a harmonious and necessary balance.
#4 Because of Amy, her love for art, and a dose of pragmatic outspokenness:
In the movie, Amy’s is probably the most rounded of Gerwig’s March sisters. From a spoiled, self-centered brat, she slowly emerges as a delightful and pragmatic realist who is not afraid to honestly speak her mind.
She also has a highly developed and clear view of herself, the world around her, and society’s constraints. Her strength of character and opinions are a firm and forceful counterbalance to Jo.
Amy’s articulate observance of a patriarchal society is eloquent, and her logical conclusion that marriage as an ‘economic proposition’ is instructive and thought-provoking.
Although Amy is accepting of, and willing to play by society’s rules, Gerwig does not compromise her spunky individuality and personality.
One of the most stirring and pivotal dialogues is between Laurie and Amy when she is about to meet Fred Vaughn, her suitor and ‘economic proposition,’ as she believes ‘we don’t get to choose who we love.’
‘How do I look?’ she asks Laurie.
Laurie responds: ‘You look beautiful….you are beautiful.’
And yet even Amy, despite her pragmatic worldview, operates from a deep sense of dignified feminine principle when she tells Laurie: ‘I will not be the person you settle for just because you cannot have her.”
#5 Because of Marmee, her love for family, and a dose of honest reflection:
The four March sisters are defined and grounded by the quiet but strong and influential presence of Marmee, the matriarch of the family.
Her humble wisdom, consistency, and sacrificial commitment to her family, and those around her, adorn her integrity.
Her celebration and acceptance of each of her daughters’ individuality, creative expressions of growing womanhood, and dreams, cause us to marvel and respect such a resourceful woman.
But it is probably Marmee’s humble and honest admission of her weaknesses that endear her to us the most.
‘I'm angry nearly every day of my life.’
Marmee exhibits a relentless desire to serve those less fortunate with a brisk and ready cheerfulness. She stands for truth and justice. By her example, she encourages her girls to think the best of others. Her honesty in commenting on the political state of her country is brave, and Gerwig is able, with just a few scripted words, to convey a profound sentiment:
‘I have been ashamed of my country my whole life...
I am still ashamed of my county.’
You need to go and watch this movie.
It is a timely movie for our generation, and it is more than just a movie about ‘Little Women.’
It is a literary and enthralling visual masterpiece. The intelligently layered plot, storyline, and dialogue make it a stimulating viewing experience, and you will come away grateful for authors like Louisa May Alcott and scriptwriter/directors like Greta Gerwig.
Hopefully the movie will also move you beyond the simplistic and generalised conversations surrounding ‘Which March sister are you?’
Personally, I would hope that you would come away from this movie with the wonderful realisation that aspects of each March sister indwell and define each one of us, and that we would all be motivated to celebrate the many beautiful reflections of feminine individuality and creativity.
All that is left to say is this: ‘Go and watch the movie.’
P.S. For the gentleman out there - you too are invited to watch 'Little Women.'
[Images sourced from:]