Little Women

USA 2019, 135 mins
Director: Greta Gerwig

Across disparate countries and radically different eras, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has come to life in a million different ways. It is a book that is unsparing in its depiction of the way the world is hard on ambitious girls, but also offers a comfort: that ambition – a vibrant inner life that breaks the bonds of the world – is its own reward. It is a book that we first encounter as children, when the world’s possibilities are wide open and there is nothing in the world that can hold us back; we return as young adults, when the constraints of adulthood and society begin to shape who we are; and we return again, as older readers, with the bittersweet nostalgia of what it meant to be young and bold, joined with the exciting joy of seeing a new generation experience that daring for themselves. The insistent power of the book is its distinctly individual call to grapple with life’s many clashing lures – with family, art, money, love, freedom, and the hope of being 100% who you are, creating your own unique story.

This deeply personal, fiercely alive idea of Little Women is the one writer-director Greta Gerwig wanted to transport to the screen. Gerwig approached the material with a determination to capture the sweeping, epic nature of the story that captures the enormity of what Alcott created, but also an honest, disarming emotional intimacy that brings the characters to life. As every reader brings her own personal interpretation and meaning to the story, Gerwig puts her own stamp on the story. The novel was originally published in two halves, the first focusing on the March sisters in auspicious girlhood, and the second covering the stark realities of adulthood. Gerwig pulls apart the novel, switchbacking between the two halves, with Jo’s story of determination and spirit providing the natural through-line and reconstruction between its parts. With its fluid approach to time, the film immerses the audience in the memories, moments, accidents of fate and acts of will that form the March sisters – ink-stained, defiantly independent writer Jo; nurturing, principled, would-be actor Meg; fragile, open-hearted musician Beth; clever, aspirational painter Amy – into their full, complicated adult selves, each so different but united in an unswerving sisterhood.

The picture that emerges is of four women looking back with affection at how they became who they are. It is also one of a world where the dailiness of women’s lives – their discoveries, sacrifices and anger, their financial, artistic and domestic concerns – deeply matters. What does it mean to take the reins of your life when so much that happens, from a crack in the ice to a mistimed letter, is out of your control? And how does that look to four sisters with four divergent dreams?

These are the questions Gerwig brings to the fore in a visually ravishing film with a look inspired by the bold artists who were changing the way people saw the world in Alcott’s time. The questions feel modern, yet it was Alcott who latched onto these oppositions that still stop us in our tracks: money vs. art, love vs. personal satisfaction, ideals vs. real life, caring for family vs. finding your own voice.

Even before Gerwig demonstrated her powerful voice with Lady Bird, she told producer Amy Pascal she believed she was the right person to adapt Little Women. ‘I flung myself at it with everything I had,’ says Gerwig. ‘I had a very specific idea of what it was about: it’s about women as artists and it’s about women and money. That is all there in the text, but it’s an aspect of the story that hasn’t been delved into before. For me, it was something that felt really, really close to the surface and even now, this movie feels more autobiographical than anything I’ve made.’

Gerwig read Little Women so many times as a child, she doesn’t remember the first time. Like a long list of fellow writers and artists, she felt such an intense identification with Jo March – tomboy, misfit and would-be novelist struggling against the status quo to become the woman she imagines – that Jo felt less like a made-up person and more like a charismatic mentor. She was the girl who knew what she wanted. To be freer. To create. To transcend all that was not allowed and yet to give of herself fully to her loved ones. That’s part of why Gerwig wanted to plunge audiences into the fabric of Jo’s world – its emotional oscillations and personal dynamics – in the most visceral way she could.

Little Women has been part of who I am for as long as I can remember,’ Gerwig notes. ‘There was never a time when I didn’t know who Jo March was, and she was always my girl, the person I wanted to be and the person who I hoped I was.’

While Gerwig stays true to Alcott’s original voice, she reconstructs the novel in an inherently cinematic way, unmooring the story from linear time, transforming the March’s most unforgettable events into the stuff of memories and creative inspiration. This invites audiences to engage with the March sisters as something new: as adults looking back, and as the living source for Jo’s writing.

‘Every time I read the book, it became something different,’ observes Gerwig. ‘I first knew it in the cosiness of childhood, and then as I got older, new parts of it jumped out at me. As I began writing the screenplay, the part of it that was in clear relief was how the sisters’ lives as adults are so poignant and fascinating, because they’re trying to figure out how to honor the fearless youth they had as grown-ups.’

Gerwig also went deep into research, reading Alcott’s letters and papers, to draw on aspects of Alcott’s real life to give her adaptation a formidable, modern voice. For example, the real Alcott wrote, ‘I had lots of troubles, so I write jolly tales’; in the film, Marmee says, ‘I’m angry nearly every day of my life.’

In drawing early inspiration from Little Women, Gerwig has a lot of company. The late sci-fi master Ursula K. Le Guin called Alcott ‘close as a sister’. Novelist Erica Jong said Little Women sparked a belief that ‘women could become writers, intellects – and still have rich personal lives.’ The heroines of Elena Ferrante’s masterwork My Brilliant Friend bond over a tattered copy of Alcott’s book, vowing to write their own. Poet Gail Mazur thanked Alcott for helping writers ‘to live with, knowing we’re not alone, the conflict between the writer’s need for solitude and self-absorption and the yearning for the warmth of love.’ Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling said of Jo March: ‘It is hard to overstate what she meant to a small, plain girl called Jo, who had a hot temper and a burning ambition to be a writer.’

For women, carving out any individualistic path, particularly an artistic life, has been perilous in any era. But that’s also why Jo hit home so hard with Gerwig. ‘There’s a rebel spirit contained in Jo, and a hope for a life beyond what your gender dictates that is completely exciting to us still,’ says Gerwig. ‘She’s this girl with a boy’s name who wants to write, and she’s ambitious and she’s angry and she’s so many different things that we identify with. It’s like she allowed us to be free.’
Production notes

Directed by: Greta Gerwig
©: Columbia Pictures Industries Inc., Monarchy Enterprises S.à.r.l., Regency Entertainment (USA) Inc
a Pascal Pictures production
Presented by: Columbia Pictures, Regency Enterprises
Tax: New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture & Television Development’s Post Production Credit Program
Executive Producers: Adam Merims, Evelyn O’Neill, Rachel O’Connor, Arnon Milchan
Produced by: Amy Pascal, Denise Di Novi, Robin Swicord
Unit Production Manager: Adam Merims
Production Supervisor: Damiana Kamishin
Production Co-ordinator: Hannah Roble
Production Accountant: Thomas Bianco
Location Managers: Douglas Dresser, Timothy Gorman
Post-production Supervisor: Catherine Farrell
1st Assistant Director: Jonas Spaccarotelli
2nd Assistant Director: Katie Valovcin
Script Supervisor: Anna Rane
Casting by: Francine Maisler, Kathleen Driscoll-Mohler
Extras Casting: Kendall Cooper
Written for the Screen by: Greta Gerwig
Based on the novel by: Louisa M. Alcott
Director of Photography: Yorick Le Saux
2nd Unit Director of Photography: Igor Meglic
Camera Operator (2nd Unit): Igor Meglic
B Camera/Steadicam Operator: Colin Hudson
Still Photographer: Wilson Webb
Visual Effects Supervisor: Brian Drewes
Visual Effects Producer: Catherine Farrell
Visual Effects by: Zero VFX, Crafty Apes, Instinctual
Special Effects Co-ordinators: Mike Ricci, Andy Weder
Editor: Nick Houy
Production Designer: Jess Gonchor
Art Directors: Chris Farmer, Bryan Felty, Sean Falkner
Set Decorator: Claire Kaufman
Property Master: David W. Gulick
Construction Co-ordinator: Joseph Kearney
Costume Designer: Jacqueline Durran
Costume Supervisors: Amy Andrews, Caroline Errington
Make-up Department Head: Judy Chin
Hair Department Head: Frida Aradóttir
DI Colourist: Joe Gawler
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Score Conducted by: Alexandre Desplat
Orchestrations: Jean-Pascal Beintus, Colin Fowler
Choreography: Monical Bill Barnes
Production Mixer: Pud Cusack
Re-recording Mixers: Kevin O’Connell, Skip Lievsay, Paul Urmson
Supervising Sound Editor: Kevin O’Connell
Stunt Co-ordinator: Scott Rogers
19th Century Technical Advisers: Kristin Martin, Kenneth Pierce
Unit Publicist: Scott Levine

Saoirse Ronan (Jo March)
Emma Watson (Meg March)
Florence Pugh (Amy March)
Eliza Scanlen (Beth March)
Laura Dern (Marmee March)
Timothée Chalamet (Laurie)
Tracy Letts (Mr Dashwood)
Bob Odenkirk (Father March)
James Norton (John Brooke)
Louis Garrel (Friedrich Bhaer)
Jayne Houdyshell (Hannah)
Chris Cooper (Mr Laurence)
Meryl Streep (Aunt March)
Rafael Silva, Mason Alban, Emily Edstrom (Friedrich’s friends)
Maryann Plunkett (Mrs Kirke)
Hadley Robinson (Sallie Gardiner Moffat)
Lonnie Farmer (Concord sales clerk)
Charlotte Kinder (Viola)
Ana Kayne (Olivia)
Edgar Damatian (Jo’s beer hall dance partner)
Erin Rose, Lizzie Short (girls at ballroom)
Dash Barber (Fred Vaughn)
Edward Fletcher (Laurence’s servant)
Sasha Frolova (Mrs Hummel)
David J. Curtis (train porter)
Harper Pilat, Eowyn Young, Lucy Austin (school girls)
Bill Mootos (Mr Davis)
Lewis D. Wheeler (Josiah Workman)
Jen Nikolaisen (Evelyn Meriwether)
Jonathon Acorn (Concord play pianist)
Abby Quinn (Annie Moffat)
Lilly Englert (Kate Vaughn)
JM Davis (Susan Robbins)
Tom Kemp (Asa Melvin)
Daniel Shea (soldier with telegram)
Anthony Estrella (doctor)
Adrianne Krstansky (Mrs Dashwood)
Sophia Gialloreto, Lily Elizabeth Gavin, Finola Weller Baldet (Dashwood girls)

USA 2019©
135 mins

The screening on Sun 30 Jul will be presented with subtitles, including descriptions of non-dialogue audio


Hannah Takes the Stairs
Sat 1 Jul 20:40; Fri 14 Jul 18:15 (+ intro by Programmer Kimberley Sheehan)
Damsels in Distress
Wed 5 Jul 20:40; Sat 15 Jul 20:30
Fri 7 Jul 18:05; Sat 29 Jul 20:50
20th Century Women
Sat 8 Jul 20:30; Fri 21 Jul 18:10
Little Women
Sun 9 Jul 18:10; Tue 25 Jul 20:20; Sun 30 Jul 18:00
Frances Ha
Mon 10 Jul 20:50; Tue 18 Jul 18:30; Fri 21 Jul 20:45
Mistress America
Wed 12 Jul 20:50; Sun 30 Jul 12:50
Lady Bird
Mon 17 Jul 20:45; Tue 25 Jul 18:30; Wed 26 Jul 20:30

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