Little Women is only a brilliant film if you want to cry all the way through it. It’s a very undignified experience. (I’ve been reading bits of the script, put online to help with Oscars nominations, and I’ve been tearing up reading that. Complete and utter shambles.) Awards are nonsense, but it deserves all the awards.
There’s an exchange towards the end of the film concerning whether people are interested in stories about ordinary lives. Jo March, the author of the story we have been watching for the past two hours, frets that no one will be interested their “little li[ves]”. (Novels were post-modern well before modernism was invented, which must be awkward for a certain breed of academic.) Jo believes her story “doesn’t have any real importance”. Her sister, Amy, responds that writing makes things more important, that “maybe we don’t see those things as important because people don’t write about them”. There’s little more important than showing life as it is lived.
There’s so much to love about this film. Timothée Chalamet’s entrance, the carriage screeching to a halt and Florence Pugh leaping out, destined to be the new “Colin Firth coming out of a lake in a drippy shirt”. Meryl Streep’s Aunt March, beyond giving a shit. (The film could only have been improved by giving Streep a song.) The chaos of the March household treating a sprained ankle, the film’s eye matching Laurie’s as he looks on in fond amusement. Laura Dern and Saorise Ronan sat against a bed, talking about anger. Saorise Ronan throughout. Laura Dern throughout. Jo’s coats and waistcoats. Emma Watson getting good material for once. The different voices Florence Pugh uses for the different ages of her character. The beautifully structured script. The fantastic use of parallel shots. Everything Greta Gerwig did to earn the Oscar she deserves to win that she wasn’t even nominated for (awards are nonsense).
Mostly what I love is that it wasn’t some worthy costume drama. You get so many at this time of the year. They’re all some trudge about Great Men, doing some groundbreaking work or such nonsense, the film prostrating itself in front of the awards nonsense screaming pick me, pick me, while carefully avoiding any difficult questions. You shouldn’t praise with negativity about something else, but I’m glad it’s not that.
I’m glad Little Women is this film. Lively, intelligent, funny, Romantic with a capital ahh, playfully assembled, deftly played. Watching this film is the full moviegoing experience, save maybe jump scares, it doesn’t have any of those. Best of all, the film is a lived experience. Watching the Marches put on a play, and these actors doing the gig of a lifetime, made me miss those times I got to be creative in a group. Watching Jo blanket her floor with pages reminded me of assembling my master’s dissertation, and Frederich’s pointed critique was every writing seminar I went to. And of course, watching a family at Christmas can’t help but be emotional. We’re only two weeks into the year, and if I see any films even nearly this good in the other fifty, it’s going to be another fantastic year for cinema.