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Everything you need to know about Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan’s Little Women movie

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Currently filming in Boston with a killer cast, this is the book adaptation to look out for next year.      

You know how there are some pop culture properties so personal to you that every new adaptation fills you with a creeping dread? What if they don’t do it justice, your mind chatters? What if they ruin this flawless, perfectly formed story? What if it’s simply rubbish, or worse… Mediocre?

That’s how I feel about Little Women. My parents owned exactly four things on VHS when I was a kid and the 1994 adaptation of Little Women, starring Winona Ryder as headstrong, bookish Jo March and Susan Sarandon as warm and wonderful as Marmee, was one of them. 

As a result I’ve seen that movie about the bond between sisters in post-Civil War America more times than I could even count, which means I am more attached to Kirsten Dunst’s lime-hoarding Amy and Claire Danes’ kind-hearted Beth and – oh! – Christian Bale’s implausibly floppy-haired Laurie than I care to admit. This was the movie of my childhood, and I won’t have it ruined by interlopers and pretenders! 

The March sisters with their Marmee in 1994’s Little Women

However, if someone was going to tackle the Herculean task of adapting Louisa May Alcott’s beloved book for a modern audience, assembling her very own Avengers-style range of thespians along the way, then I’m happy it’s Greta Gerwig. 

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Lady Bird, the best coming-of-age movie in recent memory, is directing an adaptation of Little Women right now in Boston. And she’s roped in her Lady Bird lead Saoirse Ronan to star as bright and brilliant Jo, a girl who will cut off all her hair (“Your one beauty!” Amy puts it, as only Amy can) to pay for her father’s medical treatment.

Here’s everything you need to know about Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan’s Little Women adaptation.

The cast is epic

You know about Saoirse Ronan, but wait until you hear about who else is starring in this movie. 

Beautiful Meg, the oldest and most measured of the sisters, will be played by Emma Watson after Emma Stone pulled out. Beth, who loves her piano and her sisters and only wants to help people, will be played by Australian actress Eliza Scanlen, last seen in Amy Adams’ Sharp Objects. (Before that her best-known credit was as Summer Bay’s Tabitha Ford on Home & Away.)

The role of Amy, proud and stuck-up but infinitely loveable, went to Florence Pugh, currently charming audiences in the BBC’s Little Drummer Girl. Laura Dern (!!) will be Marmee, the March family’s matriarch and – very deep breaths – Meryl Streep (!!!) will play Aunt March, upon whose financial benevolence the March sisters rely. 

Now for the boys. Stepping into Christian Bale’s impeccably shined shoes is Timothée Chalamet, also part of Gerwig’s Lady Bird crew. McMafia star James Norton will play John Brooke, Laurie’s tutor who grows increasingy close to the March sisters, particularly Meg. French actor Louis Garrel will play Professor Bhaer, a gorgeous, penniless German writer who befriends Jo in New York.

This cast is so pedigreed they’ve already started engraving the Oscars! 

Aunt March will have more prominence in this film

Aunt March isn’t exactly the most exciting character in Little Women. Crotchety and difficult, she was the one holding all the purse strings in the March family while her nephew – the March patriarch – was off fighting in the American Civil War.

Gerwig’s Little Women is said to have beefed up the role of Aunt March for Meryl Streep and put her at the centre of the story, in particular, Aunt March’s choice of which March sister – Jo, her begrudging companion, or Amy, pretty and perfect – will accompany her on a long sojourn to Paris.

We can’t wait to watch Meryl make a meal out of this role. 

The focus will be on the sisters as adults, not as children

In the 1994 Little Women adaptation, the movie was split fairly evenly between the sisters’ lives at their family home in Concord, Massachusetts and later, as adults. But in Gerwig’s adaptation the focus will be on Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy as grown women in post-Civil War America, with a few flashbacks to their childhoods in order to anchor this narrative about the ties that bind sisters together. 

Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan

That means more scenes of Meg and Jo fumbling their way through debutante balls, more Laurie growing some ridiculous facial hair at college, more Amy learning how to paint like a master in Europe.

“It’s really taking a look at what it is for a young woman to enter the adult world,” screenwriter Robin Swicord told the Los Angeles Times. (Swicord also wrote the 1994 Little Women). “It’s a clear-eyed approach to the challenges women face as they try to bravely move into new situations.”

The costumes look fantastic

The movie is currently filming in Harvard, Massachusetts, with several businesses in the town closed and redesigned to mimic 19th century Concord for the purposes of filming this week and next. 

Pictures taken from the fake snow-dusted set – part of the magic of Little Women is that it was almost always snowing in the story, no matter where the girls were – show the four March sisters clad in absolutely gorgeous outfits, arms linked as they walk down the New England street together.

These costumes are stunning, and a refreshing take on how to dress characters in a period drama. Some of it, like Meg’s woven bag and Jo’s newboy cap, seem almost modern. The costume designer has done a fantastic job.  

It will probably be released next year

Considering the movie is filming now, the UK release date for the film is likely to be late 2019. (In the US, Little Women is scheduled for release on Christmas Day, 2019). Which puts it right in the eye of next year’s Awards Season storm. We can’t wait. 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

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