Saoirse Ronan in Little Women: What’s all the fuss about?

Greta Gerwig’s upcoming film is the book’s eighth screen adaptation. So why the excitement?

Writer-director Greta Gerwig reunites with Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet for a new adaptation of classic American novel Little Women. Video: Sony Pictures

 

Last week the highly anticipated trailer for Greta Gerwig’s all-star adaptation of Little Women dropped online. Needless to say, the internet lapped it up. “The Little Women Trailer Is Out and I’m Sweating,” read one excitable headline. “The Little Women Trailer Is Here and It’s Bomb AF,” read another. (One can’t help but wonder what Louisa May Alcott would make of her most seminal work being described as “bomb as f**k” all these years later.)

Based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name, the film is a coming-of-age tale following the exploits of the four March sisters as they navigate their way through adolescence and adulthood in Civil War-era America. 

The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlan, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep. Among other things, the teaser features Saoirse Ronan delivering a tearful monologue on how women are, you know, human beings with their own thoughts and desires. 

“Women, they have minds and they have souls, as well as just hearts,” she asserts. “They’ve got ambition and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty. I am so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I am so sick of it!” 

Don’t be surprised if it winds up being used as Saoirse’s fourth Oscar clip. 

Little Women has been adapted for stage, film, and television countless times. Just two Christmases ago, a three-part miniseries was screened on the BBC. In fact, Greta Gerwig’s adaptation marks the eighth time (!) the book has been adapted for the screen, The most recent screen adaptation was the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder, Christian Bale, and Gabriel Byrne.  

In other words, it’s a story that has been told time and time again. So how has this new version managed to generate such excitement? 

First and foremost, the prospect of Greta Gerwig taking on this source material is hard to resist. Gerwig is nothing if not an expert at writing and portraying young women who march to the beat of their own drum, as evidenced by Lady Bird and Frances Ha. Who wouldn’t want to see how one of the great millennial storytellers tackles the original all-American girl novel?

Likewise, the film boasts an ensemble of young actors at the top of their game and on the cusp of stardom. Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson are among the most revered actresses of their generation and widely admired for their exploits both on and off screen.

Florence Pugh is enjoying a breakout year having impressed with her performances in Midsommar and Fighting with My Family, while young Eliza Scanlan stole the show in last year’s murder mystery television series Sharp Objects. In other words, Gerwig has assembled quite the girl gang here. 

Timing is also a factor. The film is being released against a backdrop of nasty women and rebel girls. There is a strong appetite for stories about girls and women who defy the odds and challenge society’s expectations as evidenced by the preponderance of books celebrating bold women throughout history. In other words, the climate is ripe for a new Little Women, particularly one that leans in to the notion of female empowerment as this one appears to. (The film’s tagline is “Own your story”.) 

More than anything, though, Little Women is a beloved classic that holds a special place in the hearts of female readers, in particular.

Many, myself included, can recall being swept up in its celebration of girlhood and sisterhood. I can vividly remember reading my bulky hardback copy as a child and growing resentful of my parents for not gifting me with three sisters. Over the years, I reread the book many times and spent more afternoons than I care to remember cosying up to watch the 1994 film adaptation. 

Sure, cinema may not need another version of Little Women. But I’ll be damned if I don’t dash to the cinema to watch Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet ballroom dance and buy a prairie dress as a souvenir. 

See you in the cinema on December 27th. 

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