Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

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Black Hat
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#51 Post by Black Hat » Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:47 pm

Like I've written before I want to like Gerwig, I really, really do, but her sensibilities differ so much than mine that it's difficult. So with that caveat...

Little Women is a great, great script, Gerwig knocked it out of the park. The movie though, sigh, is uneven as her inexperience as a director showed. Then again this is a very difficult production to pull off so I don't want to be too harsh. Certain cringeworthy cuts and other structural choices I won't spoil aside: on the whole this is good and I think Gerwig fans are going to love it. Meryl Streep gives a long overdue great performance where it's not "I'm Meryl Streep, Florence Pugh is excellent (odd accent choice), but Chalamet? I don't know I just wasn't buying it, nor was I buying Louis Garrel either.

It certainly strays from the book and there's a lot of modern day pandering injected into a period story, but you kinda knew that going in.

The best thing about the film is its humor, it's very very funny and every time it risks going completely of the rails, especially in the first half of the film there's a piece of comedy to keep you engaged.

I don't think there's been a film in recent memory I've been as eager to see the reaction it receives as I am with this. There's lots to like, even love about the film, but there's also problems and I wonder if people are going to be willing to criticize it.

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Never Cursed
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#52 Post by Never Cursed » Wed Oct 30, 2019 1:56 pm

Where did you see the film, Black Hat?

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Black Hat
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#53 Post by Black Hat » Wed Oct 30, 2019 2:50 pm

MOMA

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#54 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Oct 30, 2019 3:32 pm

There's been a screening in Beverly Hills for the PGA, too

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Finch
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#55 Post by Finch » Mon Nov 25, 2019 8:33 pm

Reviews are coming out and they're almost universally positive, with the worst I've been able to find so far being a still respectable 2.5/4 from Slant and the best being raves, including an A from AV Club and the trades liking it a lot as well (though Variety's Peter Debruge wasn't sold on the non-linear structure of Gerwig's script). Pugh and Ronan are getting the most shout-outs among the cast.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#56 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Tue Dec 10, 2019 3:10 pm

I shouldn't be surprised that Gerwig shot this on 35mm (she would've used Super 16 on Lady Bird if the budget had allowed it), but I am surprised that this is getting released on 35 too. Can't find a master list of the venues, but here's what I could scrape up through Google:

Austin, TX - Alamo South Lamar
Brookline, MA - Coolidge Corner
Columbia, MO - Ragtag
Columbus, OH - Gateway Film Centre
Coral Gables, FL - Coral Gables Art Cinema
Dallas, TX - The Magnolia
Denver, CO - Denver Film Society
Fort Collins, CO - The Lyric
Iowa City, IA - FilmScene
Los Angeles, CA - ArcLight Hollywood, ArcLight Sherman Oaks
Milwaukee, WI - Oriental Theatre
Nashville, TN - The Belcourt
New York City, NY - Angelika, Nitehawk Prospect Park, Nitehawk Williamsburg, Village East
Rochester, NY - The Little Theatre
Somerville, MA - Somerville Theatre
Traverse City, MI - State Theatre
Tuscon, AZ - The Loft

Of course I'm sure more will be added.

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senseabove
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#57 Post by senseabove » Fri Dec 27, 2019 6:18 pm

I snuck away from the family to catch this at the only theater playing it on 35mm in the Bay Area and, with the caveat that I've not seen any other version of LW (despite my best intentions to see at least the Cukor version before this) or read the book, I quite liked it. Maybe Gerwig just got under my skin with Lady Bird's too-close-to-home-ness, but something about her plain, earnest style just works for me, even if I can see how easy and possibly right it would be for others to write her style off as thoroughly MOR. As for the movie itself: the split structure is, sure, a little puzzling every now and then, but in an engaging rather than befuddling way, I felt, and the narrative threads are distinguished enough through cinematography and costuming and acting (especially Pugh's) that, even being unfamiliar with the plot as I was, I never had trouble placing myself in the timeline after one or two cuts. The at-times relentless dialogue was the more difficult to follow feature, as the sisters' banter is often rapid and overlapping in the "earlier years" sections, and the only element that outright pulled me out of the movie was
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when Bob Odenkirk walks in as the father—I guess it works with Aunt March's belabored point as a sort of meta shorthand for how off-kilter oddball the family is, and his role is small, but given how much is made of his absence before then, it felt like an incongruous "surprise" cameo in a movie that is otherwise earnest about what it's doing.
And speaking of earnestness, the big change is
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the ending, of course, with its did she/didn't she Jo/Alcott conflation, making the air-dropped fantasy feel to Jo's love plot pointed—especially given, from what I gather from reading reactions, that the man Jo marries in the book is, uh, not exactly a dashing, tousled Louis Garrell type.
Which I thought was an elegant way to split the difference and make different audiences happy by getting that "necessary" plot point out of the way and dwelling instead on all the ramifications of that choice, without a feeling of judging any aspect of it negatively.

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The Narrator Returns
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#58 Post by The Narrator Returns » Fri Dec 27, 2019 8:40 pm

I was also very impressed by how they handled the ending.
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It could've very easily been an annoying, snarky way of saying "this ain't your mommy's Little Women!", but the execution is so winningly ridiculous and lovely in the way only a big Hollywood movie can be (with the dolly-in on the kiss even being taken from one of Sandy's movies in Stardust Memories), with the slightest hint of melancholy at the possibility of what could possibly been (especially in the epilogue at the school). It's positively Big Fishian in that regard.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#59 Post by knives » Sun Dec 29, 2019 1:30 am

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Wait, am I right in understanding you that the film hooks Jo up with Laurie? Fuck that shit if so. I can't imagine a more fundamental betrayal of the text that would undermine what makes it good.

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The Narrator Returns
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#60 Post by The Narrator Returns » Sun Dec 29, 2019 1:37 am

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She does not hook up with Laurie, Amy still marries him. Jo just doesn't end up with Bhaer.

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senseabove
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#61 Post by senseabove » Sun Dec 29, 2019 3:13 am

knives wrote:
Sun Dec 29, 2019 1:30 am
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Wait, am I right in understanding you that the film hooks Jo up with Laurie? Fuck that shit if so. I can't imagine a more fundamental betrayal of the text that would undermine what makes it good.
The Narrator Returns wrote:
Sun Dec 29, 2019 1:37 am
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She does not hook up with Laurie, Amy still marries him. Jo just doesn't end up with Bhaer.
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Well, yes, she does, possibly... The movie makes Jo the author of Little Women, but adds a scene in which Jo the author turns in an ending to the book wherein Jo the character does not marry Bhaer, but her publisher convinces her to change it. Then we see a scene showing us the sisters and their husbands, Bhaer included, at the school that Jo has opened in Aunt March's house. It leaves indeterminate whether the Jo in that scene is the Jo we see talking to the publisher. Maybe they married and went back to New York for her to be a writer and the school never happened, maybe they did marry and stayed and opened the school but Jo wrote a story where they didn't marry, maybe they didn't marry and the ending we see is purely the publisher's coerced ending. It's a kind of Proustian "if we use for the narrator the name of the author of this book" situation, by which the possibility of various interpretations is created but none is confirmed as objective reality within the movie itself.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#62 Post by Ribs » Sun Dec 29, 2019 9:57 am

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The film never shows us anything to indicate Jo as an unreliable narrator at any point, so I read the ending as being entirely real within the film; the disagreement with the publisher isn’t to get to change the truth into fantasy but that she has to be persuaded that the Jo in the book can also get married to Bhaer as she also does despite spending much of the movie decrying interest in marriage. She hates that her ending is actually that typical and wants the literary Jo’s story to end with her a spinster because she doesn’t want to admit that she was wrong and there are some real reasons to marry. We see Jo and her sisters arrange for the carriage to the station before we cut back to the publisher’s office, which I feel makes it clear that entire chain of events did really happen and weren’t changed in that meeting despite it being intercut.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#63 Post by knives » Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:07 am

Oh, that sounds fun.

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senseabove
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#64 Post by senseabove » Sun Dec 29, 2019 3:00 pm

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Jo's demeanor and behavior in the carriage and station scenes nevertheless feel out of character for her, even if she did just confess to realizing she wanted to be loved in a way she didn't accept or understand before. The emotion may be there, but the manner of expression feels incongruous to the Jo we've seen up to that point, and its very stylized, Hollywood presentation—running through the rain, hunting in the crowd for Bhaer, him seeing her first and calling her name, and lastly the quick-cut to a close up on their embrace from the opposite side even echoing that typical circling-camera trope of a couple reunited—feels just as incongruous to the story in which all professions and acceptances of love have been much more belabored and deliberate. And those scenes bookending the publisher scene felt plausibly interpreted as a kind of bait-and-switch that's not an unusual trope for juxtaposing what could have happened and what did happen in movies, just without the usual resolution of which one is real. We also know the movie's playing with conflating Jo and Alcott, who never married and pursued a career as a writer, and the split timeline lends the whole movie a feeling of living the story and telling the story being two possibly distinct acts.

Either way one sees it, the ambiguity of what actually happens seems intentional, and effective, given that we've had one poster say "obviously she didn't marry him" and another say "obviously she did." I tend to be much more interested in how narratives lay out possibilities than how they settle them, so I find which is "right" to be a much less interesting discussion than how they both could be.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#65 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Dec 30, 2019 10:16 am

Given how many film adaptations have been done of the novel, I wondered how Gerwig could bring anything new with her take. Well, Little Women (2019) is a great take. The choice to deconstruct the chronology of the story and rebuild it by finding the parallels between the teenage girls and the young women they would become is not only inspired, but it sets this adaptation apart as its own entity. Gerwig's film is principally about the act of telling a story in a way that only film can do, through rapid time shifts and juxtaposition of shots/scenes to create great resonances. As noted in previous posts, this even reaches a meta-commentary on storytelling by the finale, but in a way that still feels faithful to the source material. Gerwig's approach also frees the film from having to dutifully condense the novel into a two-hour viewing experience; she is able to discard more meandering connective tissue by emphasizing the episodic nature of the story exclusively. A number of the novel's big scenes (scenes played for maximum impact in previous film and TV adaptations) play fleetingly here, stripped to just the emotional core. The result is a vivid and exhilarating film, and one that should absolutely get a best adapted screenplay Oscar nomination.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#66 Post by John Shade » Fri Jan 03, 2020 11:16 am

I think that Ribs is the correct one in the spoiler posts above, but I won't elaborate on that for now.

Roger Ryan very eloquently summarize what is so great about this film structurally. Having watched the recent Masterpiece Theatre version within the last year, I was ready for this (though I could've been tired) and many of the "big moments" from the story. Gerwig trusts that the audience can follow her structure, which takes moments and juxtaposes them thematically and visually. For all of the film versions of this, Gerwig's is absolutely worth it. There's a wonderful energy here; the closeness and intimacy of family life, along with all its small joys and tragedies, fully on display. And another great score from Desplat.

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Brian C
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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#67 Post by Brian C » Sat Jan 04, 2020 1:28 am

I haven't read the source novel and I haven't seen any of the other adaptations, but it's hard to imagine that any of them had the sense of sheer joy in getting to adapt the material as this one has. This is a big warm embrace of a movie, all about the thrill of living and dying with beloved characters as each page turns. I feel like pretty much anyone can relate - we all have our favorite books or movies or music, and the euphoric rush we feel for those things, and this movie is the purest expression I can recall of what it's like to just love something like that. It's infectious, like when someone's telling you about their favorites and it makes you want to seek them out just because of how happy it makes them.

Regarding the spoiler-tagged matters:
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I took the ending as Jo just having a bit of fun with the publisher. She knew full well he'd insist on her getting married - this was set up in the beginning - and so besides being amusing to her personally, it also serves her in the context of the negotiation. She gives him the ending she wants as a concession to leverage more favorable financial terms. She even comments wryly on the transactional nature of the marriage. It's extremely clever.

The bottom line to me is that this simply isn't the kind of movie that would deny her the happiness she finds at the end. The film roots hard for the happiness of its characters, and she has the kind of life she'd always wanted but never really knew she could have - she's in control of her life and career, and not only that, her husband works for her! Plus she's together with her family, and her sisters' husbands work for her too! It's far more of a subversion of the patriarchy than refusing to get married out of some misguided devotion to principle could have been.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#68 Post by nitin » Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:01 am

Saw it tonight, liked it quite a bit, but like Lady Bird, the universal over-praising is a little head scratching. Saiorse Ronan and Florence Pugh are the MVPs, as you would expect from two of the finest young actresses around, and the cross cutting of Volumes 1 and 2 is an inspired choice that understands the role that visual editing can play in a film medium and which is unavailable in a purely written medium.

Re the ending, Gerwig has confirmed how she intended it to be in interviews and there are also visual cues present. I found it a clever way of having your cake and eating it too by giving the ending that Alcott originally intended for Jo (and mirroring her own life) but also visualising the ending of the book as Alcott published it.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#69 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed Jan 08, 2020 8:02 pm

Doesn't look like anyone's made this comparison here yet, but
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I saw this immediately after Pain and Glory last night, and was delighted to find that each in their own way retroactively manipulate and ask the viewer to critically examine their narratives. I tend to agree with those above who argue that scenes with the publisher cast doubt on the reality of Jo's "happy" ending, and would extend that further to say they similarly throw not just the scenes we're signaled to view as manipulated under the spotlight, but the structure and content of the entire film. For example: are the scenes contextualizing the overseas engagement of Florence Pugh's Amy and Timothée Chalamet's Laurie reflective of what truly happened, or just the fabricated version that Jo constructs to best allow her to accept the pairing of her sister and the man she may have loved?

While this film naturally isn't as original in its conception or refined in its vision as Almodóvar's, Gerwig's (occassionally uneven) next step as a filmmaker has its own personality and character that similarly entices one to anticipate what may be to come.
While I don't ultimately admire the whole of this film quite as much as Lady Bird, this adaptation is littered with its own charms and delights: a crisp, well-paced script, some lovely shots by French cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, and a handful of sublime moments in the performances of Ronan, Chalamet, Dern, and Pugh. As to the latter, two moments stood out:
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1. During Jo's rejection of Laurie on that absurdly perfect New England hillside, Chalamet's easy slide from giddy playfulness to anxious, heartfelt pleading to angry, sullen dejection illustrate why he's such an exciting talent. He's got the looks of a young Leonardo DiCaprio paired with talent of a young De Niro... frankly, I'm thinking of starting a fan club (I assume mine will be the first).

2. The scene in which Jo and Amy first reunite just after Laurie spills that he's married Amy is perfectly executed by Gerwig, Pugh, and Ronan: Pugh is juggling her tense anticipation of Jo's reaction with first her joyful relief at her sister's acceptance and then grief at their shared loss, while Ronan's reassuring embrace is broken by a perfectly timed glance at her mother and Dern revealing her shock and disappointment.
In all, a largely successful, warmly enjoyable film — with only a few off-kilter editing choices and on-the-nose moments from the score breaking its pleasant spell — that continues to hint at the possibilities of Gerwig's future as a screenwriter and director.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#70 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:07 pm

Taken strictly on its own, I think this is quite successful. But I don't think this adaptation captures the characters (and the time period) as well as the Armstrong version. I prefer the acting overall in the 90s film. I also felt that this jumbled up (and not always wisely changed) some story elements.

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#71 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:18 pm

I'm one of those that had never read the novel or seen an adaptation in its entirety before seeing this version, but I assumed there were some character tweaks and plot omissions; what missing story elements in particular did you feel were detrimental?

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#72 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:13 pm

Jumping back and forth you don't get much sense of the development of the characters. The timeline is munged (some things happen at the wrong time). Jo does some things (towards the end) that are neither in the book nor in character. The new film seems a bit like a hodgepodge of plot highlights presented in a somewhat arbitrary order. Armstrong's version got lots of fun out of the girls' dramatical efforts (and similar activities), this is very much de-emphasized by Gerwig. The relationship with Prof. Bhaer is handled very sketchily (and he never becomes all that interesting or appealing). Hundreds of things seem off -- if you are (overly) familiar with the book. ;-)

On another front -- Clothing and hairstyles and music are often pretty out-of-period. (Most noticeable to me -- using something Dvorak wrote in the 1890s...).

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Re: Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

#73 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jan 15, 2020 10:56 pm

nitin wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:01 am
Re the ending, Gerwig has confirmed how she intended it to be in interviews and there are also visual cues present. I found it a clever way of having your cake and eating it too by giving the ending that Alcott originally intended for Jo (and mirroring her own life) but also visualising the ending of the book as Alcott published it.
Here’s a rundown of Gerwig’s intentions with some direct quotes. I actually appreciate this given the detailed reading of “having your cake and eating it too” because it supports Ribs/Brian’s points and the alternatives without making them mutually exclusive, more open-ended in an intelligent way rather than a cop-out.

I liked this a lot, though the standout scene for me
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was when Laurie and Jo dance around the house on the porch hiding from the guests inside as they pass windows. Absolutely sublime.

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