Criticism of “Little Women”, a reversal in times of feminism with Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson and Florence Pugh

Thursday March 2, 2023

From Louisa May Alcott’s novel, published in two parts between 1868 and 1869, there are at least three previous film versions. The first dates back to 1933 and was directed by George Cukor and starred Katherine Hepburn in the role of Jo March; the 1949 Technicolor classic, directed by Mervin LeRoy, starring June Allyson in the title role and Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leight and Margaret O’Brien as her sisters; and the 1994 one by Australian director Gillian Armstrong, with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon. The difference of the little women of Greta Gerwig with her predecessors is that the story begins where the others end.

The new version of little women It begins with an adult Josephine “Jo” March walking into a publisher’s office to offer him an autobiographical novel. Thus, Gerwig affects on the one hand the identification between the author of the novel and the main character of it. On the other, he explains in this way the concessions that the writer had to make in order for her manuscript to be accepted by a publisher. The film focuses on one: the editor reminds the author that in fiction a female protagonist can only have two endings: marriage or death.

Everything that is metalinguistic about the novel is transferred to the film perfectly. To the point that, at one point, we hear the voices of four female creators: Louisa May Alcott (author) / Jo March (fictional character/alter ego of the author) / Saoirse Ronan (interpreter) / Greta Gerwig (screenwriter) without power distinguish who is speaking Her message is identical at all levels, despite the time that elapses between the first and the last because it is transversal. What they defend is exactly the same.

Gerwig is faithful to Alcott’s original voice but reconstructs the novel by freeing it from its linearity and transforming many situations into memories and inspirational material. The metanarrative framework that structures the film allows it to break with the chronological linearity of the novel. The aesthetics, based on the paintings of the time, from the European Impressionists to the American master Winslow Homer, captures the epic that exists in the most everyday acts. As he goes through it a fresh young energy with a camera circling the characters like a whirlwind.

With an agile and contemporary narration, filmed on celluloid to create a connection with the photochemical process of 1861 and in natural settings, on location in Concord, Massachusetts, a place that housed writers and thinkers such as Henry David Thoreau or Nathaniel Hawthorne, little women is a good example of a Hollywood adaptation of a literary classic that is presented with renewed energy without betraying its essence.

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