Greta Gerwig made one fatal mistake in creating Lady Bird. It’s simply too perfect, too beloved, and too full of people we love (Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, and Beanie Feldstein are a powerful trio). So, expectations are high for her second showing, an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, starring … Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, along with Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen — yes, the list goes on! — Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep.
The challenges of adapting a novel, especially one as well-known and admired as Little Women, is deciding what to sacrifice and what’s vital. Critics largely agree that Gerwig picks the right combination and adds just enough dramatization. Where some things might fall slightly flat (muddy time-hopping, Emma Watson’s American accent), other aspects shine through (Saoirse Ronan, full stop). Here’s what critics all across the web thought of Little Women, so you can decide whether it’s worth dragging your entire extended family to the movie theater when it comes out on December 25.
“It feels, exhilaratingly, like the throwing down of a gauntlet. Gerwig’s Little Women demands its viewers reconsider these familiar characters and what we’ve always assumed they stood for. It doesn’t just brim with life, it brims with ideas about happiness, economic realities, and what it means to push against or to hew to the expectations laid out for one’s gender.”
“By starting in her heroine’s adulthood and flashing back through her younger years, Gerwig immediately centres the narrative on grown women, with real-world concerns worth treating seriously, and sidesteps the objections of those who dismiss anything about teenage girls as fundamentally unimportant.” —Helen O’Hara, Empire Magazine
“Despite Gerwig’s ambitious reaches, Little Women still boasts all the classic scenes fans of the book require — Meg’s curling accident, Amy’s rash revenge on Jo, the wonderful gift of a piano — and they’re so beautifully rendered, new audiences will adore them too.” —Kate Erbland, IndieWire
“Her gratifying take on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women brings freshness, vitality and emotional nuance to source material which has been etched for generations into the popular imagination, shaking up the chronology to reinvigorate the plot’s familiar beats.” —David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
“As in Lady Bird, [Gerwig] and editor Nick Houy keep things moving at a quick clip, though skipping around in time is a mistake, making a plot Gerwig must have considered too episodic, or else too melodramatic for her taste, even more so on both counts — as evidenced by the way that, in hindsight, it’s the emotional episodes we return to in our memories, rather than the overall arc of what happened to the March family.” —Peter Debruge, Variety
“Despite the fact that Little Women doesn’t feel like it’s reinventing the wheel with its take on a period piece, Gerwig does imbue the film with a lushness and soul that makes it totally charming.” —Rosie Knight, IGN
“This Little Women is, in some ways, a very finely tailored piece of nostalgia content. It’s far more vibrant and resonant than some website listicle, to be sure. But it still serves the same function. It’s a paean to the loving of a thing, rather than a movie that gives that thing an entirely new existence, free-standing and self-possessed in its own right, despite Gerwig’s narrative tinkering.” —Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
“This isn’t a radical rethinking of the Hamlet-staged-on-Mars school, but Gerwig makes decisions throughout that enhance the story, from juggling the timeline and giving certain characters more presence in the spotlight to the thoughtful craftsmanship employed throughout. From the uniformly excellent performances of a talented ensemble to the just-right choices in scoring, art direction, costuming and editing, this is a stunning interpretation.” —Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
“The film is worth it as an acting treat alone, but Gerwig and her ‘team’ (cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, editor Nick Houy and composer Alexandre Desplat among others) have crafted a terrific melodrama that offers earned heart warmth and heartbreak in equal measure and stands on its own as just a damn good movie.” —Scott Mendelson, Forbes
“The love and care that Gerwig put into adapting the stories of the March sisters is evident from the script and directing of Little Women, offering a new take on Alcott’s beloved story that respects its original themes.” —Molly Freeman, Screen Rant
“Many of the book’s touchstone moments — a fatefully overheated curling iron, a mislaid glove, an icy plunge in a local pond — are treated glancingly, more like incidents to be ticked off a list than lingered on. That can make the first half feel both rushed and episodic, but as the narrative settles into its telling, the old magic of the story — and Gerwig’s vibrant, tender-hearted connection to it — take over.” —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“Little Women is a sumptuous effort from a technical standpoint, including gorgeous costumes and Alexandre Desplat’s lush piano-and-strings score.” —Brian Truitt, USA Today
“There’s nothing little about Greta Gerwig’s rich, warm, bustlingly populated and passionately devoted new tribute to Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel of sisterhood. She revives Little Women as a coming-of-age movie, a marriage comedy, a sibling-rivalry drama — and perhaps most interestingly of all, an autofictional manifesto for writing your own life.” —Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Here, Gerwig weaves Alcott into the story in a more direct, meta-textual way. Her publishing woes, her societal frustrations, her struggles with ending the novel in a way that both expresses Jo’s views on marriage and satisfies the reader. With a few confounding exceptions, Saoirse Ronan’s Jo March is the closest thing to Alcott we’ve ever seen onscreen. She feels — in a way — like Gerwig, too; using her chosen art form to embrace feminine delicacy instead of shaming it.” —Lindsey Romain, Nerdist
*This post originally misspelled a reviewer’s name.