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"Little Women”

Sony Pictures

Directed by Greta Gerwig

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Eliza Scanlen and Timothée Chalamet

Rated PG

 

3 ½ Stars

There are a lot of big movies at the theaters right now. Between the light saber duels and the singing cats, it might be easy to miss the quiet period drama that opens on Christmas day. That would be a mistake because “Little Women,” the latest film version of Louisa May Alcott’s seminal novel, turns out to be the very best film of this holiday season.

I’m surprised at how much I loved this film. Director Greta Gerwig has taken a novel published way back in 1868 and given it a deft, modern polish. That’s a substantial accomplishment, given that contemporary readers might bristle at some of the antiquated ideas about women that underpin this story. Gerwig has found a way to give the film’s heroines some updated ideals without sacrificing the cherished story elements or characters.

She has plenty of help in the form of a cast comprised by some of the hottest young actors working today. I do chuckle at the thought that Gerwig hired actresses from Ireland, England and Australia to play her quartet of quintessential American characters, but there’s no denying that these ladies turn in superb performances—and their accents are spot on as well.

Ronan will get most of the accolades, playing the free-spirited Jo, but I was also quite impressed by Pugh, playing the artistic Amy. No matter which character you might prefer, there is no denying that the sisterhood on display here is utterly charming. Add in Laura Dern as the matriarch Marmee and you have a film overstuffed with warm-and-fuzzy feeling, perfect for a family night out at the movies.

My only real critique is that Timothée Chalamet doesn’t make much of an impression as Laurie, mostly fading into the background in deference to the story of the sisters. I understand that is how it should be in a movie about “Little Women,” but given that Laurie is such a prominent figure in the lives of this family, it would have been better to see why the sisters were so smitten.

Then again, Chalamet is very good looking, which might just be all the justification the sisters need.

These are obviously minor quibbles. My main takeaway from this film is that Greta Gerwig is proving herself to be an amazing filmmaker. Yes, I realize that this is only her second film, but she has a strong directorial voice and is unafraid to put her personal stamp on whatever material comes her way.

That obviously appeals to young actors, who leapt at the chance to work with the budding director. I’m leaping into the fan club as well. After “Lady Bird” and “Little Women” proved to be two of my favorite films of the year, I am looking forward to her next film, “Barbie,” if only to see what Gerwig has to say about the plastic doll.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are each week in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@sbgtv.com.