Little Women ★★★

Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women—a tortuously boring Bildungsroman—is charming, but mostly underwhelming. The areas it excels in—actor performances, costume and production design—are overpowered by its flaws—an unnecessarily long runtime (135 minutes!), convoluted narrative structure that jumps between the past and present, and so much verbose dialogue. This review will only focus on the third issue because... I am lazy.

No actor can deliver “don’t let the sun go down on your anger” or “I can’t get over my disappointment in being a girl” naturally, because people don’t naturally talk that way. You can’t slap a direct quote from Little Women into your adapted screenplay and expect it to not sound awkward. What works in a novel does not necessarily work in a film. I love Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, but watching them banter in these longwinded, runoff sentences for minutes on end gave me second-hand cringe. I swear to god you can SEE them struggle to breathe normally as they read off their lines. It’s bad. 

Greta Gerwig sacrificed the slice-of-life authenticity we saw in Ladybird’s dialogue for this annoyingly didactic melodrama. And for what reason? Staying true to the original source material? For fuck’s sake, Greta. Louisa May Alcott died in 1888. If we Ouija’d her here now, she would not CARE that your screenplay was written so faithfully. You could have had natural dialogue while capturing the novel’s aura because, in an effective film adaptation, these things are not mutually exclusive. 

BBC One’s Gentleman Jack and CBC’s Alias Grace are great examples of effective period piece adaptations. They weave linguistically accurate yet realistic dialogue with appropriately placed quotes from the original source materials. And both also happen to center around womanhood in the mid-ish 19th century. I do wish Gerwig could have pulled off something more akin to those series, would have made the mess I watched today for 2 hours much more enjoyable. 

But I digress. Florence Pugh was SO cute and funny and Saoirse Ronan unintentionally gave off dyke energy, which is enough for me to not regret paying $11. Merry Christmas everyone.

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