Last year, I felt pretty strongly about the upcoming adaptation of Little Women from Greta Gerwig. It had all the right ingredients: Greta Gerwig for one, Meryl Streep, Timothée Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan. Sure Emma Stone had been replaced with Emma Watson, but on the whole it was plain sailing. What could go wrong?
Many, many things, as it turns out. Watching this new trailer, I couldn’t help but laugh. Laugh at those terrible, terrible accents. Laugh at the sheer cliché of the thing. Laugh at the dresses! And it’s not just me! I’m sorry, Greta, I love your work but I’m sure others will feel a bit cheated, not least because of the pure saccharine treatment of the story. It’s like syrup. Kind of makes you want to brush your teeth afterwards.
There are a couple of jokes scattered around the place, making the whole tone of the film a bit more modern and flipping the seriousness on its head (“That’s because I’m rich” — classic comedy.) These kinds of dry interventions make it stand out from the previous adaptations, and I suppose if you watch the thing as a satire, making fun of itself and the whole genre, it’s a much more fun ride.
After all, that’s the stance of the author’s alter-ego, Jo March (Ronan). I can understand the framing device — Jo reflecting back on the events of her life while trying to get her book published. I’m not sure that it needs to be that complex, but if it does the job and gets her message across, then well, why not.
There are so many other things to unpack here. Timothée Chalamet’s windswept hair? Truly a marvel. Emma Watson? Looks like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Shots of Jo and Laurie dancing like it’s 1869? It’s enough to raise an eyebrow from a stagnant old lady at the dance. Maybe Gerwig leans into convention, but if she does, she’s made a successful comedy of it.
The official synopsis is as follows:
Writer-director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) has crafted a Little Women that draws on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott, and unfolds as the author’s alter ego, Jo March, reflects back and forth on her fictional life. In Gerwig’s take, the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on her own terms — is both timeless and timely. Portraying Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth March, the film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, with Timothée Chalamet as their neighbor Laurie, Laura Dern as Marmee, and Meryl Streep as Aunt March.
No matter my opinion, I can vouch for Little Women making a buck or two at the box office when it’s released in December. Bringing in old-timers who love a good period drama, adolescent girls who study American lit and probably a handful of people like me who takes things way too seriously, it might be a good thing. Maybe we all just need to lighten the heck up a bit and enjoy making fun of the flouncy costumes together.