Little Women - A-
Rated PG, 135 minutes
The uplifting, touching new version of "Little Women" from Oscar-nominated director and writer Greta Gerwig is a wonderful take on the timeless story and classic novel of the same name from Louisa May Alcott.
Following the lives of four sisters, Amy (Florence Pugh), Jo (Oscar-nominee Saiorse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlan) and Meg (Emma Watson), as they come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. Though all very different from each other, they are each determined to live their life on their own terms, with help from their beloved mother, Marmee (Oscar-nominee Laura Dern) and next-door neighbor Laurie ("Call Me By Your Name's" Timothee Chalamet), who may be more than a friend to more than one of the ladies.
Alcott's novel has never been short on themes or messages, and Gerwig gleames plenty of them in her tender, emotional version of "Little Women" and one of the best film versions of the novel. It helps that Gerwig has assembled a stellar cast that includes many from her acclaimed film "Lady Bird," including her muse Ronan, who leads the film with heart and warmth, and will likely see another Oscar nomination for the role.
Dern, Chalamet, Pugh, as well as "Better Call Saul's" Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts (another "Lady Bird" cast member and in the recent "Ford v Ferrari"), Oscar-winner Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep round out the large, sublime cast; Streep, Odenkirk and Cooper tend to get lost in the fray, but their roles are still essential to the film and all get in a good scene or two. Dern makes for a strong yet kind Marmee and a good role model for her young ladies, and Pugh and Ronan both share some terrific scenes as they fuss, fight, make up and find they're both in love with Chalamet's Laurie (perfectly cast here, he's quite dashing).
The primary difference with Gerwig's version and others is that this "Little Women" has more of a looser, non-linear narrative that flows back and forth in time. It doesn't always flow smoothly under Gerwig's solid direction, and there are a handful of instances you must play close attention or you'll quickly become lost in the flashbacks. Still, there's much to love here, with a great cast, some terrific costumes, sets, the lovely music from Oscar-winner Alexandre Desplat ("The Grand Budapest Hotel"), and handsome photography from Yorick Le Saux.
The poignant, superbly acted "Little Women" is a must-see this holiday season, and is one of my favorite films this season. It's full of touching messages about family, love and making your own way, and there's nothing wrong with that. Expect to see a lot of it this awards season.