Episode 207: Little Women

All adaptations are not created equal and this week we discuss one of the best, Greta Gerwig’s new take on Louisa May Alcott’s book. With a modern flair, a meta twist, and the best ensemble cast of the year, this version of Little Women warmed our hearts and won us over.

Little Women Review – 0:01:01

The Connecting Point – 1:21:02

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What We Learned This Week: December 2019

END OF THE YEAR AND END OF THE DECADE EDITION

Forgive the awards season hiatus! I missed you all and I couldn’t let you go without a quick toast to the end of 2019 and the end of the 2010s!

LESSON #1: IT’S ALL CINEMA— Boy, did I miss one dismissive and hand-wringing soapbox after another with Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest directors of film history.  Rant after rant, click after click, retweet after retweet, boy did ole Marty start a fight.  I don’t mean to sound regressive like #AllLivesMatter versus the true need of something like #BlackLivesMatterbut someone needs to tell Mr. Scorsese that it’s all cinema, from every cheesy and trashy film to every astute and austere film.  That’s from Cats to The Irishman and everything in between. They are made by creators aiming for storytelling, entertainment, and expression.  They just do so to different degrees and for different audiences.  So, respectfully, Marty, STFU.  Because you do great work, I won’t sentence you to Lesson #2 like one of your peers.

LESSON #2: CLINT EASTWOOD CAN RETIRE NOW— Look, I adore Clint Eastwood’s work.  He is essential American cinema (there I go…) and has the legacy and hardware to prove forever.  But, gosh, is he slipping.  With each can he kicks down the road since American Sniper, he’s loosing a grip on the truthful side of his filmmaking to match the purposeful part. Honoring little notes of history is one thing with dramatic license.  Revising and degrading is another.  You crossed a line with Richard Jewell and the treatment of the late Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde.  Go back to that sunset and porch rocker, Clint.

LESSON #3: PLEASE LET ADAM SANDLER TURN A NEW LEAF— Before Uncut Gems, I legitimately and truthfully had not watched an Adam Sandler movie in nine years.  I didn’t need Jack and Jill to give up on him and the repetitive manchild garbage he was making.  I had no regrets abstaining from his career.  Hot damn, though, did he supernova with Uncut Gems.  Please let this career resurgence be a true new trajectory and not a one time thing.  Don’t let him dangle a role of two like Eddie Murphy and go back to the low-hanging fruit garden.  He’s back and I want more.

LESSON #4: IT’S EARLY, BUT GRETA GERWIG REMAINS UNDEFEATED— That women knows how to make good films, period. After blazing bright with Lady Bird and all its crassness, she comes back with a PG-rated and spirited adaptation of Little Women that is an absolute delight.  It’s better than just a nod at girl power.  It’s rich and multi-layered art.  She has earned automatic watch status for whatever comes next for her.  And while we’re talking about Greta Gerwig, Dear Academy, don’t make the mistake the Golden Globes did and nominate more women like her for the excellence in their fields.

LESSON #5: ADAM DRIVER AND FLORENCE PUGH WILL BE THE STARS OF THE 2020s— Even with a big second half and huge 2019, I won’t call Adam Driver the star of this decade, but I have a good feeling he will be the star of the next one.  I’ll give this past decade to Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale before Driver, but few actors have his crossover appeal and towering potential right now.  Need proof?  Pick anything from this year, but especially Marriage Story.  Watch him win the Oscar to kick off his 2020.  As they say, the sky (and for him, the galaxy), is the limit.  His white-hot female equivalent is Florence Pugh who carried a tremendous 2019 with Fighting With My Family, Midsommar, and Little Women. She is a dual Oscar contender for those latter two roles and has Black Widow to start 2020.  We see many ingenues come and go, but, like Driver, her range across genres is formidable and will keep her around and successful for a very long time.

LESSON #6: THIS NEXT DECADE HAS UNKNOWN CHALLENGES AHEAD— The 2010s brought a swell of nostalgia regurgitation like we’ve never seen with peaks and valleys across James Bond, Star Wars, Star TrekMission: Impossible, Jason Bourne, the MCU, the DCEU, TransformersPiratesGhostbustersPlanet of the Apes, Rocky, Rambo, Despicable Me, Men in Black, The Terminator, Toy Story, Ocean’s 8, and every possible Disney re-imagining.  Try as the greedy studios may, surely the noise of all that cannot continue another decade.  Creative bankruptcy has a limit and it’s going to run out and crash hard.  The 2020s have the challenge of creating new properties and experiences because the old stuff won’t last forever.  With the close of a Star Wars saga and a massive MCU phase to finish 2019, we stand at the edge wondering what’s next and what can top what’s been done.  It can’t all be new Avatar movies.  Your decade, your move, Hollywood.  Give us something good.  In the meantime, we’ll be on the couching binging your streaming services.

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#120)

MOVIE REVIEW: Little Women

Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” follows the lives of four sisters from the blooming time of teenage years into the world of adulthood. Taking place during a tumultuous period of the Civil War, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) have their own distinct ways of viewing a world in which women’s opportunities for independence are scarcely low. The only paths to prominence were being the wife of a privileged husband, which left women in the predicament of being “property” with no sense of individual ownership, or being rich. Each sister has a sense of free will and distinct ambitions to go far beyond this limited vestige by focusing on their pursuit of the arts. Through seamless transitions between the past and present, these bonded sisters traverse romance, tragedy, family, and self-exploration.

Featuring one of the best ensembles of the year, the cast is a who’s who of gifted young actors/actresses and established veterans. Ronan, Watson, and Pugh are impeccable with a delightful charm and sit a level above the rest of the cast. Ronan is full of strong will and combustible energy that pulls the viewer into her inner wish to shatter the mold as an aspiring novelist. There is not one scene where she doesn’t steal the show. Pugh is a stellar sidekick, continuing her hot streak in 2019 that has seen her star in roles across several different genres. Watson plays her part with a silent elegance and really hits home in a couple of dramatic moments. Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, and Laura Dern all hold up their end of the supporting bargain with terrific turns representing relevant figures in the maturation of these sisters.

A certain amount of heartwarming compassion and charm is present in every little fabric of this adaption. Certain scenes will make you smile because of the easily discernible connection the sisters share or the little moments of moral humanity where characters are full of life and charity. This world is soaked with the beloved energy that the novel has carried for over 150 years; a rare case in which the film soars to the same heights of its literary companion. For a 759 page novel, the film’s pacing and actor mannerisms makesit easy to keep up with all of the important details, the switch between flashbacks and present time are handled with the utmost care and feel seamless. Jess Gonchor’s work on the production design is the equivalent of authenticity done right. House decor, horse-drawn carriages, fashion of the era, and street signs are carbon copies of what readers have imagined for decades as the words bounce off the page.

Gerwig handles writing and direction duties just as she did with her last great film, “Lady Bird”, and shows a greater sense of improvement and ease. It can be an audacious task bringing a well-received literary classic to the big screen, but Gerwig succeeds immensely. “Little Women” is an entertaining homage that carries a modern feel while keeping the personality of a timeless period piece. This is a film that speaks to all women in the celebration of autonomy and uniqueness while delivering laughs, developed character arcs, remarkable cinematography, and a winner’s circle of award-worthy performances. I’m still surprised with how much I enjoyed my time at the theater.

Rating:


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

MOVIE REVIEW: Midsommar


Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.