I think the phrase “lightning in a bottle” is overused. So, know that when I call Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” lightning in a bottle, understand that I mean it in the most life-altering, soul-affirming way. “Little Women” is a rush of wonder and youth, containing a kind of emotional depth that I search for in every movie. To boil its infectious and unforgettable zeal down to a single moment would do injustice do its living, breathing charm. So instead, we wrote about several moments. Ones that made us cry, or laugh or simply stare in wonder at the screen. Our favorite moments. Caution: This list includes important spoilers from “Little Women.”
— Anish Tamhaney, Daily Film Editor
Jo and Laurie dance
Greta Gerwig is a time traveler.
Gerwig’s “Little Women” is disarmingly, refreshingly modern. The potent themes of Alcott’s novel aren’t diluted by the period dresses and period slang, instead they become timeless.
As for the moment: Two wallflowers find themselves together in a side room at a local party. Not dancing doesn’t seem right. Dancing in there seems even worse. They waltz, spin and shake their hearts out on the wrap-around porch of the colonial New England home. It’s Gerwig’s first nod to the little worlds we find with the people we love. Jo and Laurie move like they’re at a punk show in the 1970s — like they’re two kids who’ve found who they want to dance with for the first time.
— Stephen Satarino, Daily Arts Writer
Amy burns Jo’s book
Eleven months before I started college, I began writing a novel, and by the beginning of my freshman year, I had generated some 50,000 words. It’s no wonder that I find the most affecting scene in “Little Women” to be Amy’s burning of Jo’s book. The pointed ease with which Amy decides to burn the pages is as upsetting as Jo’s reaction to the absence of her work when she arrives after the party. Her realization that those pages are gone made me feel a rageful, incapacitating grief. It was the first of many times I shed tears during “Little Women,” because sometimes, losing your work can feel like losing a person, a part of yourself that you will never see again.
— Anish Tamhaney, Daily Film Editor
Mr. Lawrence listens to Beth play the piano
Every Sunday, I trek to my friend’s apartment, and we drive to the grocery store. He and his roommates have a piano, and often, when I approach the door, I can hear him playing. Usually, instead of entering, I just lean against the door, close my eyes and listen until he stops. It’s beautiful and I can’t bring myself to interrupt it.
In “Little Women,” the March sisters’ next-door neighbor, Mr. Lawrence, decides to show the same restraint. Having given Beth March an open invitation to use the piano that his late daughter used to play, she performs in solitude with a dexterity and certainty that her shyness often obscures. In one scene, Mr. Lawrence hears her, descends the stairs, then, instead of sauntering in and disrupting her serenity, he — an elderly man — crouches down on the steps, content just to listen. Some beauty asks us to participate. Some we can only witness.
— Julianna Morano, Managing Arts Editor
The March sisters admit Laurie into their theatre troupe
Greta Gerwig intimately understands the love language of youth — it’s active, usually made complete with tackling, screaming and laughing. The sisters and Laurie consistently overlap each other, physically and audibly. When Laurie leaps out of the costume rack, screaming out in a rugged British accent, the frenzy of the March sisters erupts in immaculate goofiness.
The hysteria of this scene lingers in my mind not only for its encapsulation of the overlapping nature of youth, but also for the scene’s ability to act as the residue of Marmee’s teachings:
“Do it for someone else, just like Marmee taught us.”
The March sisters and Laurie perform for each other before they perform for anyone else, inventing roles and providing their watchful, attentive gaze to each other’s art. The audience is organic — it comes from the love of art and the love of each other. At the end of the scene, Laurie provides each sister with a key; In the same way the key allows Jo to open a portal back to the selfless art of her youth, Greta uses this scene to open a portal into a world where you first came to art for the love of it, acting without thought of consequences, sidegigs, or career ambitions. The dainty flowers hanging delicately overhead remind us that one can be just Jo, not Ms. March. One can be just Laurie, not Mr. Laurence.
— Samantha Cantie, Daily Music Editor
Jo and Beth at the beach
“It’s like the tide going out. It goes out slowly, but it can’t be stopped.”
“I’ll stop it.”
This scene, to me, embodies the very best of Jo March: her determination, her devotion, her naive, romantic belief in the notion that love conquers all, even death. Of course, anyone who has read the book or seen the film knows that Beth’s death could not be stopped, not even by Jo’s fierce, undying love for her. When Jo tells her sister she will stop her death, her voice quivers, yet there is still an undeniable, unexplainable strength in her speech, a strength that seems to comfort Beth, regardless of whether or not she actually believes in Jo’s words. And though they both secretly understand that Beth’s time on earth is limited, in this one brief and precious moment on the beach, braced against the Atlantic ocean’s harsh and unforgiving wind, Beth is safe, held in her sister’s arms.
— Elise Godfryd, Senior Arts Editor
Amy and Laurie in the art studio
I read “Little Women” for the first time when I was eight, and I hated Amy. I read it again a few weeks ago, and I still didn’t love her. It wasn’t until I watched Florence Pugh onscreen as Amy March that I truly appreciated her. The one scene in particular that changed my mind about her was when she stands up to Laurie in her art studio, refusing to be looked down upon for her decision to marry rich. She tells him point blank that marriage is “an economic proposition” for women and makes him understand just how difficult life is for women of the time. In this moment, she proves that she has no regrets in doing what she has to do to minimize that difficulty in her own life. That moment, that scene, is where we finally see bratty Amy March, who wears fairy wings and burns books, morph into a confident, grown woman.
— Sabriya Imami, Daily Arts Writer
Mr. Lawrence can’t bring himself to enter the March house without Beth in it
“Little Women” has always been a story about vitality and youth, not just as an abstraction or an era in people’s lives, but as a physically occupied space. In the girls’ teenage years, the March house crackles with signs of life and youth everywhere: The soft yellow light, the little cut-out stars dangling from the ceiling, the strewn-about blankets and jackets. When Beth has her whole life ahead of her, her music and her potential and the kind things she says fill the March house. When she dies, it’s like a vortex takes over, sucking all the light in the world with it. The movie goes from being lit in pinks and yellows to greys and blues. When we talk about death we talk about it as a “loss,” and it’s true that something fundamental about the space these characters live in is lost when Beth dies. Her life and her presence didn’t just belong to her. It filled her world, and the world of everyone who knew her. Mr. Lawrence is right — a March house without Beth is impossible to fathom. Their home is a foreign country now.
— Asif Becher, Daily Arts Writer
The costumes. That’s it. That’s the blurb.
Period films always have good costumes. Some are better than others, obviously, but the starting point is the same. After listening to Greta Gerwig talk about the thought and detail that went into the costumes, it’s unsurprising that the wardrobe in “Little Women” is one of the best to hit theaters.
Each character’s style is distinctly theirs — Jo runs around in pants and an inspiring green writing jacket that make you yearn to write alongside her. Amy, Meg and Beth are seen in a variety of dresses, scarves and overcoats that reflect each girl’s desire to fit in with her classmates, keep up with her richer counterparts or endlessly play piano. Not only that, their styles evolve as Gerwig takes her audience between the rosy memories of childhood to the sophisticated air that is the present.
— Emma Chang, Daily Arts Writer