Despite proper intentions, Little Women still ends up one of the most okay features of 2019. As much as it intends to win over audiences amidst the holiday season, its admittedly effective efforts of doing so aren’t terribly memorable. It’s great to focus on how oppressed women back then stood up for themselves by writing, but this movie’s attempt at doing so doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t take any creative risks.
The overly simplistic cinematography improperly showcases beauty; the camera often goes handheld, even losing focus on the faces. It’s not anything like another classic feminist movie, Alien, which gave the cold tone of an antagonistic force. The lighting arrangements directed by Greta Gerwig however offer nothing similar, despite how many solid moments she can create. Worse still, the inconsistently recorded sound design feels intent on vocalizing thought bubbles. Combined with the cheap audio work, the already obnoxious music grows insufferably loud when no music would have improved the mood of each scene it plays in. The mediocre music REALLY wants the audience to ugly cry as it plays to the abused number of close-ups that only draw attention to how nobody ages within the feature’s seven-year timeframe. Though the large span of time this covers most likely won’t even be noticed, because the amateurish way editor Nick Houy (Lady Bird) orders the events is just plain confusing.
Together, the clear flaws of these technical elements under Gerwig’s control display what bad direction looks like in the scene where Saoirse Ronan’s character rejects criticism. Heck, Greta’s way too ordinary vision is unfit for such a story told between multiple different subplots; she doesn’t even cast the actresses who play the sisters right… they all have different accents!
Although, it’s worth pointing out the costume designs’ keen sense of gender roles. While nothing here is as strong as the Bride’s iconic yellow jumpsuit in Kill Bill Vol. 1, the efforts made here are certainly above average. The leading female who ignores the societal expectations wears mostly masculine clothes while her sisters dress more feminine, frilly hoopskirts for male senses. Even while the lead wears skirts like her three sisters do, she also wears the occasional black hat and red neckerchief to appear as masculine as the publisher she tries appealing to. Yet Greta Gerwig’s script seems uncertain whether to make the main sister a main protagonist or among the ensemble cast, so settled on both, which in turn causes some of the costumes to mesh too much without strong distinction.
Not to say though that this has a poor mindset of how culture should behave, because it most certainly understands the unfair lack of power women were allowed to have back then. It was a society where men ran the whole of the nation, and women were said to be beneficial for nothing besides loving. So, fitting to the timeliness of this old story, the fictional heroine, very different from how people at the time really behaved, resents the oppressive nature of male-run businesses. She didn’t want to amuse Americans, she wanted to preach to them, the exact opposite of what the publisher wanted.
The short-sighted view toward reality the people back then had is faithfully recreated here while avoiding negative stereotypes, and ultimately does well to empower women while offering a narrative structure most female viewers can relate to instantly: that of a soap opera… Who will marry who? How long until she discovers her feelings for him? What about vice versa? Will she ever learn to forgive? Even if the timeline isn’t quite right, the four sisters’ subplots are given a fair amount of attention so that their struggles are comprehensible.
To further enhance the period-setting, some string music complements a small dance outdoors while a nice hint of backlight brightens the overcast seashore. To make this attractive recreation of the northeastern United States complete, the imagery turns Christmassy with festive colors amidst the larger heavy winter snow. Near the climax, a generous amount of pretty fall leaves heats up the main sister’s arc in a way that connects back to the book she’s writing, and even seems to foreshadow the metaphorical flames her story will burst into. In fact, the novel she’s writing and the very novel this movie is based on cleverly play into the story; several brief lines throughout present the irony of the circumstances, including how nobody desires to read a story on domestic women, or how she wishes to live in a book, yet here is an adaptation on that exact thing! Greta Gerwig is honestly pretty genius in how she implements irony into this tale about just how much the pen reflects importance.
Despite the admittedly effective qualities though, the forgettable Little Women is a product neither good nor bad, but merely exists, which makes it difficult at the end to wholeheartedly recommend.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Little Women. Sony Pictures Digital Productions Inc. Web. <https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/littlewomen>.
Rooney, David. “'Little Women': Film Review.” Digital image. Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media, LLC, 25 Nov 2019. Web. <https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/little-women-1257699>.