LITTLE WOMEN – An Oscars Smorgasbord!

I admit that I’m not the most avid period-drama-punter. Personally I find most period pieces a snoozefest catered largely towards fans of a good midday movie. I can’t say I’d ever be excited to see a period drama, and I only have the base-most familiarity with the LITTLE WOMEN story. So I was far from swept up in the buzz around GRETA GERWIG’s latest instalment. But it’s been a really hot summer, and the cinemas here have really good aircon. I had some time off over Christmas, so a few friends and I chose a balmy summer’s eve to relax together with a glass of wine in the arctic air-con of our local cinema and give this film a go. You’ll see in my review that I’m really glad we did so.

LITTLE WOMEN is rated G and is in cinemas now. It runs for 135mins and is brought to you from the little legends at Sony Pictures.

Little Women – The March Sisters all in a row!

BY CLAIRE SMITH

SYNOPSIS – IN CASE YOU DON’T ALREADY KNOW:

A classic coming of age story. Jo March reflects back on her life while herself and her three sisters live their lives on their own terms in the overlapping state between childhood and adulthood. 

The Little Women in a Little Performance Moment

THE MARCH SISTERS’ STORY MARCHES ON:

Released 25yrs to the day after the last cinematic adaptation, LITTLE WOMEN stormed onto the screen to Oscar accolades aplenty. In the age of female empowerment, it’s the right time for this beloved story to make known how relevant it can be. Originally written in 1868, it’s seen seven film adaptations and nine television miniseries (including two Japanese anime’s and an Indian web series). It’s also been through countless theatrical productions, including four prominent onstage musicals and two radio dramas. It’s fair to say – LITTLE WOMEN has been there, done that. 

COSTUMES: CLASSIC TALE OR CLASSICALLY STALE?

This film was an obvious choice for best costume noms at the Oscars. It’s inevitable that the period drama always showcases the best and brightest’s ability to stitch and sew the grandest designs to lure The Academy vote. JACQUELINE DURRAN (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ATONEMENT) worked cleverly with little touches on the costumes to visually tell the story of the March sisters. Each little woman has her own colour palette and mother Marmee (LAURA DERN: JURASSIC PARK, MARRIAGE STORY) often wears a combination of all of them. Lavish dresses in times of wealth are juxtaposed against modest, fray-hemmed gowns during hard times. It’s a small touch, but it helps to place the storyline visually as it jumps from past to present. 

The Little Women’s Gentlemens Club is Called to Order

OSCAR NOMS AND SNUBS:

LITTLE WOMEN has unsurprisingly emerged as a bit of an Academy darling this year. It’s raked in a total of six nominations, a hefty bounty for a story that’s admittedly been done to death. GRETA GERWIG (LADY BIRD, FRANCES HA) attracted a nomination for best adapted screenplay but was snubbed on the nom for best director. Such a nomination would have added a female director to the all-male list, and brought a chance for a female to win. Depressingly, such a feat has only been achieved once in the academy’s 92 year history. LITTLE WOMEN would have been a perfect film to begin the path to equal opportunity on this front. 

Despite a disappointing miss on the best director front, GERWIG still has the opportunity to break a gendered streak with her nom for best adapted screenplay. If she lands it, she’ll be the first solo-credited female writer to win this category since EMMA THOMPSON won in 1995 for SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. 

The March Sisters

PERFORMANCES – A SISTERLY SENTIMENT:

SAOIRSE RONAN (LADY BIRD, BROOKLYN) – first of all, it’s pronounced “Sir-Sha” – it rhymes with “inertia”. RONAN plays Jo March and landed an Oscar nom for doing so. There’s a fire behind her eyes that portrays the cunning, fierce nature of the writer who penned the original classic. There’s also a warmth to her character – sisterly snarks and quibbles are soon forgiven. Comfort is found with the connection of a relaxed flop onto the couch when waiting for news abroad. Hugs and human contact are a second language for the sisters and RONAN portrays this in a way that makes the viewer yearn to become an adopted member of the March family. 

FLORENCE PUGH (MIDSOMMAR, THE FALLING) has also nabbed a cheeky little nom for best supporting actress in her portrayal as Amy March. PUGH went straight from filming the floral crowns of MIDSOMMAR to the floral dresses of LITTLE WOMEN. She’s cited the transition as a form of therapy from the harrowing halls of the Scandy-story. PUGH has become a mainstay in recent cinema. She’s a veritable shapeshifter who’s shown her acting chops from the likes of a WWE Wrestler wannabe in FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY to a traumatised orphan in MIDSOMMAR. She’s appearing again on the silver screen later this year in Marvel’s next blockbuster BLACK WIDOW. Versatile and believable, she’s a tour de force – the Oscar nom will do wonders for her burgeoning career. 

The film is a cinematic cornucopia of Academy alumni. MERRYL STREEP (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, OUT OF AFRICA) is finally old enough to play the crochety old Aunt March. Reminiscent of her role in DOUBT, STREEP brings a lovability to the curmudgeonly, opinionated matriarch. 

PERFORMANCES – BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LITTLE MEN:

CHRIS COOPER (ADAPTATION, AMERICAN BEAUTY) plays the kindly old Mr Laurence next door. COOPER has an onscreen presence to his performances that reels you in and leaves you wanting more. COOPER won an Oscar for his role in ADAPTATION, which coincidentally was also alongside MERRYL STREEP. 

TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, LADY BIRD) plays love interest Theodore “Laurie” Laurence. He has a calm, soft nature to him that allows the ideals of the little women to take the forefront of the love story. It’s an important element, because the mainstay of the story arc is the women striving to escape from gender constraints and live life on their own terms. CHALAMET has a respectful warmth to him that embraces the women’s individuality and desires. Never acting entitled to their love, never treating them as a prize, he supports and accepts the sisters’ journey. It’s just lovely. 

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet in Little Women

CONCLUSION –  NOTHING NEW, BUT WORTH ALL THE FUSS:

There’s a loving chaos to the March family that is as relevant now as It was when originally penned. It’s all heart and all hugs and all the sisterly disputes that only siblings can understand. Set across four seasons, ten years and eight storylines, the timeline sure keeps you on your toes. Although the tale is still important, the remake doesn’t bring any new points of view to the story. Nonetheless, LITTLE WOMEN is “product as described” – a gentle, loving period piece featuring some beautiful characters portrayed by talented actors. If you saw the trailer and thought “OH I MUST SEE THAT!” Then you’re going to absolutely love it.

KERNEL CLAIRE’S POP SCORE:

KERNEL ELIE’S POP SCORE:

KERNEL BLAKE’S POP SCORE:

YOUR CRITIC:

Kernel Claire has been writing for Salty Popcorn since 2011 and has recently stepped in to the editor’s chair to help out with publishing the Kernel’s collective reviews. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for almost 20yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.