After earning a nomination in the Best Director and Best Original Screenplay categories at the Oscars for 2017’s “Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig chose a new adaptation of “Little Women” for her sophomore directorial effort. Louisa May Alcott’s classic American novel about four sisters growing up in New England during the Civil War was initially published in 1868. It quickly became a beloved piece of literature, spawning two sequels.
Since then, the novel has inspired no less than seven film adaptations, most famous among them the 1933 version with Katharine Hepburn, the 1949 version starring Elizabeth Taylor, and more recently the 1994 version with Winona Ryder and Christian Bale. And the latest iteration has some big shoes to fill: those three adaptations alone resulted in 8 Oscar nominations and two wins. Luckily, Gerwig seems poised to meet the challenge.
An all-star ensemble for the ages has been assembled to bring “Little Women” to life. For Marmee, the loving family matriarch who raises her four daughters alone while her husband is away at the front, there is Laura Dern; most recently seen as the pillar holding up the second season of “Big Little Lies.” The imperious Aunt March will be played by none other than Meryl Streep, who many will likely recognize as the living screen legend.
Then we come to the four March sisters, the real stars of the show. Mature, beautiful Meg, played by Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” fame, quick-witted, stubborn Jo (Saoirse Ronan, star of “Lady Bird” and the only actress to have three Best Actress nominations by the age of 24), sweet, gentle Beth (Eliza Scanlen, “Sharp Objects”), and creative, haughty Amy (Florence Pugh, who has already blown audiences away once this year with the raw power of her performance in “Midsommar.”)
And then, lest we forget, there’s Timothee Chalamet as the archetypal floppy-haired boy-next-door, Theodore “Laurie” Laurence. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this cast is stacked.
The Box Office Potential
With a prime Christmas Day release, “Little Women” seems poised to capture the holiday family market that has historically paid dividends for this type of film. When Gillian Armstrong‘s adaptation of “Little Women” came out on the same date in 1994, it made three times its budget, was nominated for three Academy Awards, and introduced legions of female fans to the teen heartthrob version of Christian Bale.
With Gerwig and star Saoirse Ronan’s momentum coming off of “Lady Bird,” there’s a tremendous amount of buzz for this highly-anticipated adaptation. It features a troupe of actors who are at their career’s peak, and whom audiences genuinely like and what to see do well. This should only enhance the attention the film receives critically and at the box office. Of course, anticipation also means expectation. There’s always the possibility that “Little Women” will fall short of the high bar audiences have set for it. With only a few set photos to see, it’s hard to say which way it will go. If there is anyone we can trust with this material, it’s Gerwig and her impressive cast.
Given the prestige of those involved in “Little Women,” it seems likely that this film could be in contention for several Academy Awards. Saoirse Ronan seems the most likely candidate for acting and could be nominated for Best Actress for her work as Jo. For Best Supporting Actress, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep both have potential based on the strength of their careers and status within the industry, while Florence Pugh could also be in consideration as the ingenue of the cast. If things go well, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibilities for Timothee Chalamet to receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination, as well.
We could also be looking at Greta Gerwig to make history and become the first woman ever to have been nominated twice for Best Director at the Academy Awards. Other potential categories include Best Hair & Makeup, Best Costume Design, and Best Production Design. While it’s unlikely that they would receive all of these nominations, there is a significant amount of upside for “Little Women,” especially if early reviews are positive.