A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Little Women is an all-star adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel, directed and written by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan as Jo March, Emma Watson as Meg March, and Timothée Chalamet as Laurie. Set in Civil War-era Massachusetts, the tween-friendly period drama is a tribute to sisterhood, generosity, the creative spirit, and the importance of community. Although the film provides a nonstandard framing device for the story, it mostly stays true to the source material. There are some sad/tense moments, particularly when one sister falls through the ice and (spoiler alert) when another one gets ill and dies in a tearjerking sequence. Mr. March is injured during the Civil War. The romantic storylines don't always follow the predictable route, but you can expect some kisses and longing looks and a cleavage-enhancing dress. Some characters drink -- one far more than he should -- and minor/background characters smoke. There's a reference to a "cathouse." Although the story is set in a time when gender roles were more narrowly defined, the March sisters are all worthy role models, and their journeys demonstrate the core values they were taught by their parents. This touching adaptation could become a classic for a new generation.
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What's the story?
Director Greta Gerwig's adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel LITTLE WOMEN follows the story of the four March sisters as Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) reflects upon her life. In flashbacks, aspiring author Jo and her sisters -- responsible and lovely Meg (Emma Watson), quiet and musical Beth (Eliza Scanlen), and impulsive and artistic Amy (Florence Pugh) -- welcome their new neighbor, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), into their creative inner circle as they help their Marmee (Laura Dern) hold down the homestead while their father (Bob Odenkirk) serves in the Civil War. As the years pass, Jo yearns for professional and personal freedom, even though her sisters don't share her ambitions, and best friend Laurie wishes they had a future together.
Is it any good?
This beautifully acted, thoughtfully directed adaptation of Alcott's beloved story about sisterhood is exactly the heartfelt and uplifting modern classic moviegoers need. Twenty-five years after director Gillian Armstrong wowed audiences with her star-studded take on the March sisters, Gerwig offers up her vision for a new generation, with a gifted ensemble cast, lush and evocative period touches, and a framing story that focuses even more on Jo's creative ambitions. Gerwig even manages to handle the age-old Laurie problem (Chalamet's Laurie is even dreamier than Christian Bale's in the 1994 film) with more nuance than previous filmmakers. She's also the first director to make Amy (the excellent Pugh) come even close to being sympathetic.
Ronan is once again revelatory as she explores Jo's passionate, opinionated, and strong-willed nature. Dern is fabulous as the patient, loving, and wise Marmee, and Meryl Streep seems to be having the time of her life as the rich, deliciously judgmental Aunt March. Although it takes a moment to adjust to the fact that Pugh plays both the impulsive preadolescent and clear-headed debutante-aged versions of Amy, the actress is so good that it doesn't matter. Scanlen's Beth steals scenes with her quiet but powerful generosity, and Watson's Meg is beautiful and kind. The supporting men are equally impressive: Laurie's rich but sensitive grandfather (Chris Cooper), tutor/suitor John Brooke (James Norton), and Transcendentalist Civil War veteran Father March (Bob Odenkirk) are all depicted with great care. Gerwig's lovely remake is as poignant as its predecessors, and it's also full of hope for a better tomorrow -- one the March family believed in, fought for, advocated, and modeled with their values and deeds.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender roles and how they're explored in Little Women. Why does Aunt March say that only marrying well can save the family? Why is she an exception? How did the 19th century limit women's roles outside the home?
Gerwig based her adaptation on the original story but also includes other aspects of author Alcott's life. What's memorable about the new adaptation? What messages are most strongly conveyed? How does this adaptation compare to other film versions?
Those who haven't read the book: Does the movie make you want to pick up the novel? Those who have read it: How well does this version capture the spirit of the source material?
Discuss how each March sister's choices and interests differ, despite the fact that they were all raised in the same family. How realistic are their various stories? Which sister do you most identify with, and why?
- In theaters: December 25, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: April 7, 2020
- Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet
- Director: Greta Gerwig
- Studios: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters
- Character strengths: Compassion, Curiosity, Empathy
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and brief smoking
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 19, 2021
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