The March sisters in Greta Gerwig's 2019 "Little Women" adaptation

‘Little Women’ sheds light on femininity in the 19th century

From the hoots, to the hollering, and to heartbreaking moments, the adaptation of Little Women has set the standards high for feminist films. Released on Dec. 25, you can catch this film playing in theaters. Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig wrote the screenplay and directed the adaptation, bringing the beloved classic American novel of the same name Little Women, written by Louisa May Alcott, to life. 

The Rundown

The March sisters hug their mother
Credit: Columbia Pictures


Little Women is a story of which focuses on four girls: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Gerwig’s adaptation takes us on a journey through a feministic lens as we endure the highs and lows of the March sisters living in Concord, Mass., during the civil war. While it is set in the 19th century, the dialogue is more contemporary with a modern take.  Although the film and book will never exactly be true to each other, Gerwig’s remarkable charm has maintained the spirit of the book.  

The cast

An extravagant and talented cast of women was another added bonus to this tale. The central character, played by Saoirse Ronan, also in Gerwig’s Lady Bird, plays Jo March. She is the second oldest of the March sisters. Jo is an aspiring writer and strives to make her mark in the world independently.

The March sisters and their family 

The sisters all share different personalities and aspirations. Meg (Emma Watson), the oldest is responsible and into theatrics. Beth (Eliza Scanlen) has a musical background with a timid personality. Amy (Florence Pugh), the youngest sister is a painter and has a knack for being oblivious to situations. The girls are inseparable and share their mutual love for each other in different forms. Jo writes plays as the other sisters put on a performance for their mother (Laura Dern) and their housekeeper, Hannah (Jayne Houdyshell).

The sisters are always supportive and at times share a dislike for one another. But their charm and energetic auras are what brings a sense of intimacy and joy among a family that came from nothing. The sisters share a judgmental aunt played by Meryl Streep. While their aunt tries to put the girls on the straight and narrow, her beliefs of maintaining social status and wealth is by marrying a man. We learn at the beginning of the movie that their father (Bob Odenkirk) is off at war.

A modern take on a timeless classic

The March sisters stand together while holding baskets
Credit: Columbia Pictures

Gerwig’s technique in switching back and forth in the timeline is tasteful.  It gives a little snippet of what is currently happening and what is to come. The book highlights and consistently brings up the many topics of feminism. The setting and overall tone of the movie is heartfelt, warm and humanistic. The story itself is still relatable and bodes well in today’s culture. The pressures of finding a man to marry have been a long predated expectation of women. Gerwig tweaks the movie in a way where it still pays homage to the original storyline but still gives the audience a sense of contentment.

Societal expectations of women 

The March sisters are bundled up and on their way to take the town
Credit: Columbia Pictures

Gerwig’s adaptation definitely strikes a chord and helps amplify the struggles of women meeting societal expectations. 

  • For starters, Meg marries for love while the other girls within her social class are simply marrying for money and reputation. She feels the peer pressure in settling down with a man. 
  • The aunt never gets married but is able to sustain herself by being rich. Although, she still believes that marrying a man is a more suitable life choice for her nieces. 
  • Amy is infatuated with love and marries a man. But she believes that marriage is an economic proposition. Despite having her own ambitions of wanting to be a painter and living out her dream. 
  • Jo chooses her career over marriage, which resonates with a lot of women today.  

The film sheds light on many different lifestyles that women face. It brings up how women are unable to live the life they want due to the expectations and pressures of society.

Why the Oscar buzz?

Director and Writer of Little Women smiles for the camera

Many can argue that The Academy snubbed Gerwig for Best Director for Little Women, but Gerwig did receive a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Gerwig’s adaptation to this classic deserves the spotlight and recognition. If Gerwig were to take home the win, she would have accomplished a great achievement no other woman has since Diana Ossana, who helped co-write the script of Brokeback Mountain.

Gerwig has remarkably brought a new wave of feminism into cinema. Little Women garnered six Academy Awards nominations.

  • Amy Pascal (Producer) – Academy Award for Best Picture
  • Saoirse Ronan – Academy Award for Best Actress
  • Florence Pugh – Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Alexandre Desplat – Academy Award for Best Original Music Score
  • Greta Gerwig – Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Jacqueline Durran – Best Costume Design


Ronan and Pugh helped Gerwig’s adaptation achieve what was needed. There is heart and soul to this movie. The significance of this film is how it resembles closely to the novel and how a classic literary piece is relatable to modern day. Gerwig’s nomination comes as no surprise. If she wins, it would speak many volumes for women.

If you decide to check this film out, let us know what you think on Twitter @GeekGalsCo or in the comments below!

Featured image credit: Columbia Pictures

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