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‘Little Women’ a beautiful retelling of a classic tale

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I keep a list of movies I can’t watch in public because I’m an ugly crier and thought of being caught crying in public is too terrifying to think about. I’m putting the new adaptation of “Little Women” on that list, as it made me break down in tears more than once.

But when I wasn’t wiping the waterworks away as stealthily as I could, I found “Little Women” to be a beautifully told, wonderfully warmhearted piece of cinema.

Based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, “Little Women” is the story of the four March sisters and their struggles to get through life with their father away at war. The film centers on Jo (Saoirse Ronan), an aspiring writer who travels home from New York to help tend to her sick sister, Beth (Eliza Scanlen).

Meanwhile, Meg (Emma Watson) fights the dissatisfaction and wants that come with being married to a poor tutor and Amy (Florence Pugh) prepares to marry for money while studying painting in France.

This movie has a ton of plot to it, but director Greta Gerwig and her filmmaking team have wisely chosen to focus on the characters and how they respond to the events of the plot. As a result, the film meanders along, not in a hurry to get anywhere. That may sound boring, but it really isn’t.

It’s not boring because this movie is full of beauty. The acting is beautiful. The writing is packed with beautiful, thought-provoking sentiments. The cinematography is lush and gorgeous. While the plot goes to some dark, heavy places, “Little Women” never feels ugly or unpleasant.

What Ronan does on screen in this film is especially beautiful. Her portrayal of Jo is full of resourcefulness, resiliency and feisty spirit. She also gets some truly moving moments where breaks down and we see how lonely she is and what going her way has cost her. If there’s an award-worthy performance in “Little Women,” this is it.

Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet in ‘Little Women.’ | Courtesy Columbia Pictures

That’s not to say Ronan is the only actor in this film worth recognizing. Watson gives the best performance we’ve seen from her in quite a while. Laura Dern is fantastic as Marmee March, a strong woman who instills a sense of decency and generosity in her daughters.

Meryl Streep shows up and is, well, Meryl Streep. She can’t give an average performance. Pugh, Chris Cooper and Timothée Chalamet also shine. Honestly, the entire cast is very good and extremely convincing.

Put the performances together with Gerwig’s ability to capture the emotion needed to push each scene forward and her sturdy writing, and “Little Women” has a rock-solid foundation. In addition, Director of Photography Yorick Le Saux makes every frame of this movie look like a beautiful painting and Alexandre Desplat’s musical score is frequently stunning.

Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh in ‘Little Women.’ | Courtesy Columbia Pictures

If “Little Women” has a flaw, it’s the structure. The film jumps back and forth in time, and at times it’s easy to get lost because the film doesn’t give you visual cues to help you tell past from present. You get used to it and it’s not a killer flaw, but it does distract you from the film.

If you can get past that, “Little Women” is well worth your time. It’s a great story, beautifully told and full of inspiring messages about the strength one can draw from family and how to be yourself when the whole world is telling you to be someone else.

4 ½ Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG

Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on EastIdahoNews.com.

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