starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep
screenplay by Greta Gerwig, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
directed by Greta Gerwig
by Walter Chaw Halfway through Greta Gerwig's rejiggering of Louisa May Alcott's beloved and stultifying classic of marrying well, the four March women gather in their attic to play dress-up in a homegrown drama club. Their purpose that day is to inaugurate honorary March sister Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) into their ranks, and the energetic, excited babble of children playing at theatre and democracy rises to the rafters as a joyful noise. The appeal of this Little Women, I think, is that it tries very hard to maintain this level of energy throughout; and the ultimate failure of this Little Women is that its reasons for doing so are inspired less by genuine exuberance than by calculated, maybe even arch, affectation. This little play-within-a-play is like Hamlet's play-within-a-play: it's the key. Gerwig's adaptation is careful in constructing an image of itself of progressiveness and metatext without risking enough to actually be critical of its text and, by extension, itself. It has its cake and eats it, too, because they deserve cake, goddamnit, and who are you to tell them they shouldn't have any? I mean, honestly.