Like much of the art that’s created by women and about women, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women has inspired a lot of handwringing about what it all means, becoming, as it was fated to be, a prism through which we’re supposed to understand something vital about feminism and sexism. Men don’t care about Little Women or actual little women. Jo is a #GirlBoss, or Jo is an inspiration to all women writers and artists. Little Women is a white feminist manifesto and should be less white.
But what did the Jezebel staff who saw Gerwig’s Little Women think? We have thoughts, because, as Saoirse Ronan’s Jo reminds us in the movie, “Women, they have minds!”
I am unfamiliar with the 1994 version of Little Women, starring Winona Ryder and a young Kirsten Dunst, because for years, the March-sister shaped hole in my heart has been filled by the 1949 Mervyn LeRoy version, which existed on VHS in my home as a child for no real reason. I have seen this version countless times. Its rhythm is imprinted in my mind as canon. The March sisters will go visit the Hummel children early on. They will eat popovers for Christmas. Later, someone will run some blancmange over from the big house next door. Beth will die, and it will be tragic. Then, like clockwork, it’s Christmas once more.
Greta Gerwig’s reinterpretation of Little Women is different—vignettes, as opposed to a steady, straight plot, bookended by scenes of Jo March enduring rejection at the hands of Mr. Dashwood, an antebellum publishing executive in beautiful New York City. The lingering traces of the Christmas spirit allowed me to enjoy the film sans cynicism—I cried heartily when Beth succumbed to the inevitable and felt a renewed sense of justice for Amy, who is clearly upset at being her family’s cash cow, but does so anyway because it means she gets to boss Laurie around for the rest of her life. There appears to be a fair amount of “outrage” over this film because, if I understand correctly, the men don’t really like it? Someone’s mad that Laurie was white? Does any of this matter? No!! There are flower crowns and a Pinterest wedding, Meryl Streep’s in it, and if you have maybe even one sister, you’ll feel something. Just watch it! Who Cares!
I think the Robert Altman-meets-Louisa May Alcott style of acting where everyone keeps talking over one another along with the reworking of the timeline made the movie so jumbled that if I didn’t know the story so well I might have trouble understanding the plot or the characters. But it’s obviously a movie made by a fan for the fans, so the fact that we didn’t get that much characterization just means everyone can better insert their own projections of who they think each little woman is, and that is ultimately the point. Feeling like a Jo, or in my case, an Amy, is an American past time, as the March sisters were the original American Girl dolls.
Addendum: I do believe with my whole heart that it is time we let poor Emma Watson grow up.
I’m just glad that Laurie is as annoying in this version as I vaguely remember him being in the book. What a whiny baby!
How many times did characters burst through the door in this movie and scream: “My little women!” Too many, I think. Anyway, I like that it positioned Amy as the superior March sister, although that probably wasn’t the point. And if I was to gripe, I’d let everyone know that I deeply resent them for being dickmatized by Timmy and his puffy sleeves, because he truly cannot act.
Marmee wanted a divorce, I think, the whole entire time. I think she wanted Father to die in this war and was stressed with every letter she got confirming he was still alive. It was just the vibe I got through the whole movie. Especially when she was talking to Jo about how she was an unhappy woman but she was trying to be chill about it. And then when Father came back she had these little jabs and side comments. She hates the guy and is keeping it together for her annoying children.
Since it is not The Lighthouse, the only vaguely historical adaptation I now acknowledge, I have no interest. Maybe if the little women were more murderous? Is there a mermaid?
*Molly has neither read nor seen any version of Little Women.
I think it’s probably fine that they’re white.