Greta Gerwig's Vibrant, Ambitious 'Little Women' Reinvents Itself

“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.

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Fall 2018: Female Directors

Unlike this summer, female representation behind the camera is being overshadowed this fall by the Ruben Fleischers, Damien Chazelles, and Bryan Singers. While you can’t expect many women-helmed movies at your local theatre, they’ll be making lots of noise on the festival circuit. Along with a description of the theatrical releases to look out for, this piece compiles a list of the female-directed feature films screening at major film festivals. Listing every film at every fall festival would make for an article as long as Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, so we trust our readers will be on the lookout for women filmmakers at their local festivals, as well as documentary and short films directed by women. All film descriptions are from press materials and all theatrical release dates are for the United States. 

Theatrical releases:

September 21 – NAPPILY EVER AFTER dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour

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Violet has it all: the perfect job, the perfect relationship and the perfect hair. Until an accident at her hair salon makes her realize she’s not living life to the fullest. This romantic comedy, starring Sanaa Lathan, is based on the novel of the same name by Trisha R. Thomas

September 28 – LITTLE WOMEN dir. Clare Niederpruem 

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A modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel follows the lives of the same sisters we know so well — Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March — and detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood. Despite harsh times, they cling to optimism, and as they mature, they face blossoming ambitions, relationships, and tragedy, while maintaining their unbreakable bond.

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Let’s Go Back In Time: Much Ado’s Favorite Period Pieces

From Yorgos Lanthimos’ highly-anticipated The Favourite to Greta Gerwig’s star-studded interpretation of Little Women, 2018 will be the year of period pieces. In anticipation of these films, the Much Ado crew has put our heads together and shared some of our favorite period pieces. They span genres, directors, and countries, but one thing is for sure: We are a group who loves a good period piece.

Atonement (2007) dir. Joe Wright

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I’m not here to introduce you to a hidden gem of historical fiction about a marginalized population or oft-ignored perspective – I’m here to talk about Atonement. Yes, the Ian McEwan adaptation starring Keira Knightley and directed by Joe Wright. The combination of those three names yields a period piece so period piece-y, it’s quintessential genre viewing.

This movie’s got everything: war-torn lovers, smoking parlors, sexual tension, an evil chocolatier played by Benedict Cumberbatch, family secrets, precocious Saoirse Ronan, dramatic deaths, and betrayal. Set against the backdrop of the First World War, Atonement follows the sweeping love story of beautiful, snobbish Cecilia and working class Robbie, played by Keira Knightley with a jaw so sharp it could kill a man and boy-next-door James McAvoy, respectively. Saoirse received her first Oscar nomination for her role as Cecilia’s incredibly annoying theater kid sister Briony (or at least that’s how I viewed her when I first saw the film as a preteen). But most of the gooey, decadent drama of the film draws itself from everything but the acting.

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Eight Movies to Watch Now That You’ve Seen ‘Ocean’s 8’

John Mulaney once said, “You could never put together a heist with women. Like Ocean’s Eleven with women wouldn’t work because two would keep breaking off to talk shit about the other nine.” Just like the film’s heist, the success of Ocean’s 8 was high stakes, but with its $100 million domestic gross, the film silences the critics and proves, once again, that women dominate at the box office.

For decades, female ensemble films have been hitting the silver screen and subsequently proved to be substantial and fun entertainment. I asked my social media followers to name their favourite powerhouse group of ladies on film, with the following – of many films referenced – coming out on top.

The Women dir. George Cukor

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While Ocean’s 8 is void of the male criticism predicting a movie full of catfights, The Women (1939) has plenty – one in which Rosalind Russell bites Paulette Goddard leaving her with a scar – and it makes for some good comedy. The film is based on Clare Boothe Luce’s play of the same name and stars some of the biggest names of the era: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Fontaine. With a supporting cast comprised of Lucile Watson, Mary Boland, Florence Nash, Virginia Grey, Ruth Hussey, Virginia Weidler, Butterfly McQueen, Hedda Hopper, as well as Marjorie Main and Phyllis Povah who reprised their stage roles for the film. Despite the film’s slogan “It’s all about men!”, the entire cast of 130, including extras, were all women (even the dogs featured were female). The central theme of the film is the women’s relationship with the men in their lives, with most of them going to Reno to get a divorce. The film follows these Manhattan socialites, focusing primarily on Mary Haines (Shearer) who, thanks to the gossipy Sylvia (Russell), finds out her husband is having an affair with the perfume counter girl Crystal Allen (Crawford). The claws come out and leads to one of the best scenes of the film, a standoff between Mary and Crystal who dish out some harsh quips. The drama between Mary and Crystal allowed for the interconnectedness of the rest of the cast, as their lives change over the film’s two year period. With witty dialogue and elegant costuming, sparks-fly in this comedic classic of extravagant bitchery.

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