The cast of “Little WOmen” includes (from left) Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen. (Columbia Pictures)

The cast of “Little WOmen” includes (from left) Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen. (Columbia Pictures)

First-rate cast proves ‘Little Women’ is worth revisiting

In this version of the 1868 novel, writer-director Greta Gerwig emphasizes Jo and her development as a writer.

Maybe we didn’t need another adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” The 1868 novel has had plenty of attention over the years.

But we got a good one. Thanks to the care of writer-director Greta Gerwig and a strong cast, this “Little Women” has more than enough new wrinkles to justify its revisit to familiar territory.

Once again we are absorbed in the Civil War-era concerns of the March family, whose four daughters navigate the challenges of their age and their family’s slightly disadvantaged economic status.

Our focal point is Jo (the peerless Saoirse Ronan), a budding writer, who enjoys a flirtation with wealthy neighbor Laurie (Timothee Chalamet, from “Call Me by Your Name”) but is determined to be independent in her life.

Jo’s sisters are Meg (“Harry Potter” regular Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and calm, sickly Beth (Eliza Scanlen). Their mother, the wise and stalwart Marmee, is played by Laura Dern; father, who spends most of his time away at war, is played by Bob Odenkirk.

Gerwig’s superb eye for casting includes Chris Cooper as Laurie’s lonely grandfather, Louis Garrel as a foreign professor, and Tracy Letts (he was the dad in Gerwig’s “Lady Bird”) as a skeptical publisher. And why not toss in Meryl Streep, popping up as the vinegary Aunt March?

In telling the story, Gerwig cuts between two different time periods — one with the sisters as girls coming into their own, the other seven years later, as more somber issues play out. This means that even the earliest scenes in the narrative are shaded a little with age.

The structure also helps us see that Jo’s story is not about finding a man and getting married, but about becoming a writer. The attention Gerwig pays to how a book would be published in the mid-19th century tells us everything about what she sees as important to Jo, who not only must struggle with the age-old artist’s dilemma of how to turn the mess of real life into crafted form, but how to do it as a woman in a man’s world. You get the feeling this film has been made with the same tender care as those handcrafted books.

That extends to Yorick Le Saux’s photography (New England looks authentic, without pausing for postcard views) and Alexandre Desplat’s soulful music.

The actors, especially, create an authentic sense of camaraderie — Gerwig gets lively energy going without violating the period setting. Ronan leads the way with her customary fierce determination, and the rail-thin Chalamet does a deft job of suggesting a bright, fun young fellow who is maybe not the man of Jo’s dreams.

The film’s most flagrant scene-stealer is pug-faced Florence Pugh, the star of “Lady Macbeth” and “Midsommar,” a willful and funny presence. This is one “Little Women” where you’re as curious about Amy as you are about Jo.

What’s definitely modern about this version is Gerwig’s let’s-get-on-with-it pace, which could maybe use a breather or two for atmosphere. But generally, this is an interesting take on unbeatable material, a portrait of the artist as a young woman.

“Little Women” (3½ stars)

The Louisa May Alcott novel gets another adaptation, as writer-director Greta Gerwig emphasizes Jo (the peerless Saorise Ronan) and her development as a writer. The movie gives a splendid showcase to a wonderful cast, including Timothee Chalamet, Emma Watson and the scene-stealing Florence Pugh.

Rating: PG, for subject matter

Showing: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Cameron Hewitt
Switzerland's Lauterbrunnen Valley looks pastoral but it hides a powerful dose of natural wonder.
Rick Steves’ Europe: In the Swiss Alps, the laws of nature rule

The travel guru learned to respect the power of nature in the shadow of Switzerland’s towering Jungfrau.

Inside Elle Marie Hair Studio in Smokey Point. (Provided by Acacia Delzer)
The best hair salon in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied. Here are the results.

For more than a thousand years, Czech leaders – from kings and emperors to Nazis, communists, and presidents – have ruled from Prague Castle, regally perched on a hill above the Vltava River. Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli
Rick Steves’ Europe: History lives in Prague and its hilltop castle

It’s one of Europe’s best-preserved cities, having been spared from last century’s bombs.

Alarm clock in the middle of the night insomnia or dreaming
Trouble sleeping? Try these tips for getting a good night’s rest

Many adults turn to sleep aids, including alcohol, to help them rest, without realizing that their hectic lifestyles may be contributing to their sleeplessness.

The Stumbling Fiddler Band is scheduled to perform March 3 in Everett. (Photo provided by Port Gardner Bay Music Society)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Get ready for St. Patrick’s Day with music by the Stumbling Fiddler Band in Everett.

I was charged an extra $250 for a mistaken car rental upgrade

When Leah Page picks up her rental car from Thrifty, it charges her a $250 upgrade fee. Can it do this without her permission, and how can she get a refund?

Naomi Jacobson as Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer in "Becoming Dr. Ruth" at Village Theatre in Everett. (Auston James)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

“Becoming Dr. Ruth,” which tells the sex therapist’s amazing back story, is now showing at Village Theatre in Everett.

Over 200 years, the magic lantern transformed into an educational peacock

Regarded as magic in the 1650s, this device was refined into the more scientific sounding sciopticon by the mid-1800s.

Market for sale plants. Many plants in pots
Snohomish Garden Club plans annual plant sale

The event is scheduled for April 27 at Swan’s Trail Farms. Proceeds will go to scholarships.

Start planting now so you can stop to smell your own roses all summer long

Late winter to early spring is perfect for planting roses. And with so many varieties to consider, there’s no time to waste.

The 2024 Mazda3 hatchback. (Mazda)
2024 Mazda3 adds a Carbon Turbo trim and more safety features

The charismatic compact is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback.

Cousins Penny Leslie and Sidney Baker work together on a mural inside a jail cell at the Mukilteo Police Department on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
No more staring at blank canvas in Mukilteo police holding cells

Bright murals now adorn the walls. The artwork is intended to calm and relax detainees.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.