Once again, for the seventh outing, Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” rears its sweet and sentimental voice from the dusty past and glows on modern screens.

Most film critics claim Mervyn LeRoy’s 1949 Technicolor production as the very best, but modern reviewers take umbrage at that claim and have given Greta Gerwig’s 2019 offering a big hug.

Women of a certain age will remember that LeRoy’s version starred June Allyson as Jo, Margaret O’Brien as Beth and — OMG — the much married Elizabeth Taylor, as the spoiled Amy. It included Janet Leigh as Meg, who later was brutally murdered in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

I am happy to tell women from teens to great-grandmothers that you will be as happy as embroidered drawing room sofa pillows.

Everything you always loved since girlhood is there for you. Writer/director Gerwig has left nothing out to disappoint you, and she has thrown in a few new touches to keep you awake. The “Beth has scarlet fever” segment runs a bit overtime, but you know how that plays out.

The entire estimable March family is here: four chatty, excitable sisters, one mother, lovingly dubbed “Marmee,” (Laura Dern) various wannabe lovers and the poor father (comic Bob Odenkirk) home from the Civil War.

This time out we get Saoirse Ronan, sans her Irish accent, as Jo in a wardrobe that evokes Diane Keaton’s “Annie Hall.” There’s the tiny Emma Watson, still looking 12, minus Hermione Granger’s magic wand, as Meg, Florence Pugh as Amy, (quite good) a smoky Eliza Scanlen as sweet Beth.

Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”) weeps his lines as the painfully delicate and perpetually tremulous Laurie. Tracy Letts shines as the cynical publisher, Mr. Dashwood, and comic actor Bob Odenkirk is miscast as Father March. Don’t we miss Will Geer? Louis Garrel floats in and out as the tweedy Friedrich Bhaer, who in Alcott’s story winds up with Jo. In real life, a painfully plain feminist, Louisa never married. How about the ubiquitous Meryl Streep as Aunt March, as a sedate version of the “Aunt Pitypat” character in “Gone With The Wind?” Chris Cooper, heavily made up, appears as the benevolent Mr. Laurence. So you can see that the gang is all here. and you can sigh easily.

Gerwig, the rising star of women writer/directors these days, clearly drew her inspiration from her passion for Alcott’s words.

The big stars of this reunion include Yorick Le Saux, Gerwig’s cinematographer, providing lovely shots of what appears to be Alcott’s Concord, Massachusetts, with all the sunsets and verdant hills intact. And the biggest credits and awards should go to Jacqueline Durran for her splendid costumes. “Little Women,” popcorn for the ages.

J.P.  Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.


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