Few male-type guys have read Louisa May Alcott’s prototypical chick-lit novel. Maybe it’s the title. Nevertheless I went in with mind wide open. It is, after all, written and directed by the emergent Greta Gerwig and features a number of young talents – Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlon, Timothee Chalamet — and backed up by veterans Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts and Chris Cooper. Plus it was nominated for six Oscars.
For the first hour of this multi-plot, coming-of-age tale of the four strong-willed March sisters living in post-Civil War New York City and dealing with life, young love and plans for their futures, I dutifully admired the fine acting, the costumes, and the production design, but was not extremely entertained.
Then a wonderful thing happened. Jo March emerges as the author’s alter ego and the story we’re watching becomes a work in progress that she’s trying to get published (in an era when women writers were frowned upon). Gerwig’s reimagined and restructured adaptation refreshes the 150-year-old story with wit and wisdom, empowerment and even a bit of wicked fun. Ronan’s absolutely luminous performance cannot be underestimated.
By the end this crusty critic had to pull out a hanky, and I can give no stronger recommendation than that.