Whos in the mood for a reunion? Its already good news that Sony Pictures is planning to make a fresh adaptation of Louisa May Alcotts classic 1868 novel. Weve all got our attachments to the 1994 movie directed by Gillian Armstrong—Winona Ryder as the headstrong, ahead-of-her-time Jo March! Christian Bales deliciously fine Civil War-era do!—but its the kind of story worth remaking at least once a generation.
Its even better news that Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig is in the works to direct, and that shell be joined by Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, playing Jo March and Laurie Laurence, respectively, with Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, and Lady Macbeth breakout Florence Pugh rounding out the rest of the cast.
Gerwig is said to have initially only been in the works to retouch the script, but the commercial and critical success of Lady Bird made her the undeniable front-runner to direct. This is especially good news on the industry front, then, a sign that Gerwig—only the fifth women to be nominated for best director at the Academy Awards—is getting the kind of career boost her exceptional debut has rightly earned her. Her Little Women wont only be a pitch-perfect sophomore effort. Itll be a sign that Gerwig, now at the helm of a prestigious studio movie, has risen into the industry mainstream, after a long-running career as a darling of the American indie scene, writing, acting in, and now directing some of the most significant—and notably low-budget—indie movies of the last 20 years. Little Women is a sign that she may finally be afforded the kind of substantially budgeted projects her talent is well-suited for—while sustaining the quirks that have made her indie career so indispensable.
The movies also, simply, a great fit. You hear Gerwig and Little Women and you immediately picture all the possibilities. Lady Bird is notably a movie about a smart, assertive, complicated young woman, and Little Women checks all those boxes. But Alcotts novel is also, significantly, about money—something the March family could use more of. And the Civil War aspect of Little Women calls to mind some of the background noise in Lady Bird, too, those brief snippets of TV news reminding us that Lady Birds first time, boyfriend drama, and quick foray into hanging with the popular kids raged as America at large was staring into the mouth of the oncoming Iraq War. Itd be ludicrous to call Lady Bird practice for adapting Alcotts novel, but look, the similarities are convincing.
Little Women isnt exactly an obscure or under-nurtured property; there was a Masterpiece edition just this year, and a movie version starring Lea Thompson. But theres still room to be original, I think. What the Little Women hype to date has somewhat lacked—and what a writer-director as smart and sensitive as Gerwig may draw upon—is greater attention to the Louisa May Alcott herself, who once said: “Id rather be a free spinster and paddle my own canoe.”
Unmarried, without children, and sternly in control of her own career, Alcott led a rich, varied life, unique in its time. Among other things, she worked as a Civil War nurse, was an early Suffragette, and grew up brushing shoulders with the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, thanks to her educator father. Itd be lovely for some of that context to work its way into Gerwigs adaptation. Shes exactly the kind of perceptive, energetic talent to make it sing.
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