Since there’s not really any new movies to watch right now, at least nothing notable, I’ve taken the time to catch up on the lingering few movies from 2019 I hadn’t seen yet. I am happy to report I have now completed my task. The last movie on my list was Little Women, which was a story I wasn’t necessarily interested in directed by a woman I think is a brilliant filmmaker in Greta Gerwig. As such, I gave the movie a watch, and I largely thought it was good. There is one glaring issue, though, and I have to discuss it.
I can perhaps best exemplify it by saying this. The movie jumps back and forth in time, going from the present for the March sisters to as far as seven years earlier. Florence Pugh, who plays Amy March, was 23 when she made the film. In the present, she’s in Paris taking painting lessons and thinking about maybe marrying a rich dude. During that time, she says she is 20. That means Pugh is playing a 20-year-old. Fair enough. However, Pugh plays Amy in every instance of the character throughout the years. All the actresses do. That means Pugh, who again was 23, plays a 13-year-old.
Simply put, Pugh isn’t passing for 13. She’s an adult woman. On top of that, the movie didn’t really do anything to youth her up. It feels like maybe Pugh is “acting” a little younger, but until I found out Amy was barely a teenager I just thought it was weird. None of them women are aged down when they play the kid versions of the characters. Saoirse Ronan has different hair, but that’s it. Emma Watson looks exactly the same. The woman who plays Beth, Eliza Scanlen, was 20 when she made this and at one point she’s pretending to feed a doll and I was just baffled. I still don’t know how old Beth was.
That’s the thing about this decision. I never read Little Women. I had no idea how old any of these characters were supposed to be. I only know Amy’s age because she said she was 20. I don’t know who was the oldest and who was the youngest. Is Beth younger than Amy? Is Jo the oldest? Hold my hand a little bit. Also, don’t have a 23-year-old woman playing a 13 year old. It’s weird. Little Women was basically doing the bit from Walk Hard where Kristen Wiig says, “I’m his 12-year-old girlfriend” but it’s not a joke.
There weren’t really perfect solutions. The story is the story. Amy is 13 when the book begins and eventually has to marry Laurie because it’s one of the huge moments from the book. You have to have that. Casting different actors for the younger version probably went against Gerwig’s time-jumping vision for her movie. In the end, maybe the movie just had to have this issue with it, unless they wanted to age everybody up, say, two years from the book. Pugh still isn’t passing for 15, but it’s less jarring. I hope Gerwig really wanted to do a film version of Little Women and it meant something to her, because otherwise she locked herself into making a movie with a huge problem in the heart of it. The second I heard Amy say she was 20 any chance of this being a great film went right out the window.