“I want to be great, or nothing.” This defining line from Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women has become a catchphrase of American literary feminism, repeated out of context, embroidered onto pillows, and championed nearly to the point of losing all meaning.
The sentiment, first delivered by Alcott’s Amy March in regards to her skills at a painter, rings particularly hollow when you consider its place in the countless film, television, and stage adaptations of Little Women that have come since its first publication. These retellings, like so many adaptations of classic novels, have rarely striven for that artistic greatness Amy speaks of—they’ve by and large been pale, sentimental imitations of what a great story looks like, designed to print cash and appease the period piece crowd, i.e. women. Aside from Gillian Armstrong’s hit 1994 film, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Little Women as vital as the original.
That is, until Greta Gerwig came along. The writer-director behind Lady Bird and Frances Ha has been emphasizing the value in quotidian stories about young women throughout her short filmmaking career, and her talents and interests have found a perfect home in Little Women. Lively, ambitious, and deftly directed, Gerwig’s adaptation takes both its subjects and audience seriously, building its own kind of greatness that extends far beyond the power of the original text. It doesn’t attempt to overwrite Alcott’s story with modern feminism, but rather highlight how the joys and struggles of her characters have persisted across time. Filled out by an exhilarating ensemble cast, Gerwig’s Little Women is the best we’ve ever seen this story—and it’s one of the best films of the year.
It’s a particularly cruel demon, a greedy and indiscriminate condition that cuts lives too short and too harshly. Perhaps cancer’s worst sin is its tendency to provide hope that it quickly snatches away; the cycles of remission cut every bit as deeply as the initial blow, if not even more violently. This is the tragic reality for many of those with cancer and their families. The long process of your own body turning against you prepares you for your end, but are you ever really prepared?
After eight weeks of building tension, making us hate Wind Gap, and giving us Amy Adams at her best, Sharp Objects has come to an end. Its shocking yet satisfying ending was the perfect conclusion to a show centered on trauma, being a daughter, mental illness, and memory.
The finale plays out like a stressful horror movie as Camille and Amma fight to survive, all while clad in thin nightgowns that cling to their sweaty bodies. They are fragile dolls and Adora’s toys to play with, dress up, and torture. To confront her mother about the death of Marian, Camille lets Adora poison her. Adora accepts the task with ease, finally letting Camille enter her room, showering her with love and strange medicines. Adora grabs her tray of medicines like a serial killer pulling out his tray of torture devices, all while smiling that sickly sweet Adora smile. As she prepares Camille’s next dose, Alan mutters, “Don’t go overboard,” proving that he is in fact a human trash heap and has been enabling Adora’s toxic, murderous tendencies. You’ll have to watch the episode to see its final twist, but even having read the book, I gasped comically loud. All I’ll say is that Eliza Scanlen is an actor to watch in the coming years, delivering a devilish performance as Amma Crellin.
As Sharp Objects approaches its final episode, the tension, anxiety, and apprehension is becoming unbearable in a wonderfully captivating way. In episode six, “Cherry”, we learn that underneath the shiny and luscious outside of Wind Gap is a deep, dark pit. This episode confronts the shiny facade of Wind Gap’s domestic life and the angst that lies just beneath the surface.
Episode six opens on three different groups waking up: Camille and Richard, Alan, and Chief Vickery. The two in particular that are in such stark contrast to one another are Alan and Chief Vickery. Alan wakes up on a pullout couch, where Adora has sequestered him. He starts his day alone, glimpsing a pile of vintage porn on the table. Alan is a symbol for hidden household dysfunction; while his wife and home appear perfect, he is pushed to another floor, to a bed that isn’t truly his. Then there is Vickery, who’s waking up sequence is almost exactly the same as in episode four. He has a set routine and a wife that cares for him. His unchanging routine is a breath of stability in a time of utter chaos. It’s a small sequence of events, but it speaks volumes about what happens behind closed doors despite the shiny airs put on to impress others.
“Shit, still in Wind Gap,” Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) mutters as he wakes up in his sweltering hotel room. Yes, Willis, we are still in Wind Gap and we’re now halfway through Sharp Objects. The fourth episode in the series is a kick to the face, addressing sexual assault, sexual tension, and the festering pain of the Preaker-Crellin family.
Adora is still whimpering about her hand, which she cut while trimming her roses. The small flesh wound is now being used as an excuse to have her husband, Alan, cut her breakfast and to cancel her social engagements. This means Camille must go meet Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) and friends alone. The older women are just as gossip-focused as the rest of the town; No one is safe from their sharp tongues.