29 Days of Romance: Review #1, Little Women (2019)

29 Days of Romance: Review #1, Little Women (2019)
Little Women
IMDb

Little Women. Directed by: Greta Gerwig. Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh. Runtime: 2h 15 min. Released: December 25, 2019.

Jo March (Saiorse Ronan) reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on their own terms.

Set during the Civil War, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy Little Women because period films are hit-or-miss for me. It’s hard to define this as only a period film as it’s such a timeless story. I loved it from the scene and really loved it when Jo started to look back on her life and all four sisters are together. These scenes are the best for me, but the scenes work in both past and present.

It works so well because all the performances are brilliant. Saoirse Ronan is the perfect Jo March as a character hungry for her own independence and adamant about keeping it. She’s headstrong and likable. She’s passionate and personal, and it’s so interesting that she doesn’t want to marry, given societal expectations. Instead, her love affair is with her writing and Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrell) is secondary to it. And man, Ronan headlines this ensemble so well.

Emma Watson plays Meg March, the oldest March sister. She doesn’t marry rich and we see her struggles with that. Watson is as charming as ever as Meg. Florence Pugh as Amy March shines. She’s the March sister that is most in the shadow of Jo, and spends much of the film in Europe.

This is one of Pugh’s many great performances this year and she’s quickly becoming one of my favourites. She plays to such a range here, especially since she’s only supposed to be 20 years old in the present, so when Jo reflects, Pugh convincingly plays a 13-year-old character. It works because of what she does with her voice and her attitude, even though Pugh obviously doesn’t look 13 years old.

Eliza Scanlen also does well as the youngest sister, Beth, and Scanlen is really the only actress whose name I didn’t know (now I know I recognize her from TV’s Sharp Objects). She plays the quiet character perfectly and some of the scenes where she plays piano over at Mr. Laurence’s (Chris Cooper) house are so, so good. It’s fascinating watching these sisters and their ups and downs, each wanting different things. Their chemistry is also what helps make the film so damn entertaining.

Little Women, article
Emma Watson, Saiorse Ronan and Florence Pugh in Little Women. (IMDb)

Laura Dern is also perfect as the matriarch, Marmee March. The character’s compassion is obvious from the first scene and Dern is just so believably selfless and kind in the role. The fact that she can play someone so human and turn around and play a devilish lawyer in Marriage Story shows her just how versatile she can be.

Timothée Chalamet also makes for a great Theodore “Laurie” Laurence here as he befriends the March sisters and becomes a key part in some of their lives. Meryl Streep also shows up as Aunt March, and the fact that Streep’s performance here is maybe the seventh best at worst just shows how many great performances director Greta Gerwig is able to get out of her stars.

Greta Gerwig seems to write the perfect adaptation here. I say “seems” because I haven’t read the source material (by Louisa May Alcott) nor seen the 1994 film, but I don’t know how this can get any better. With the performances and writing, I absolutely fell in love with the March family here as the film went on. Gerwig depicts the time so effortlessly and their struggles as women in that day in a way that’s easy to understand through its dialogue. The look and the feel of the film is so well-directed to a point where by the end of the film you’ll feel like part of the family.

There are so many funny and heartbreaking scenes here, too. There are just so many poignant and emotional scenes hear that worked that I was at least choked up a lot. The performances and music and everything about it make this so charming, and when a film is this good, I just have a big smile on my face and am close to tears whenever there’s a moment that really works for me. And let me tell you, a lot of these character beats worked for me because it’s so well-written and the cast sells every moment.

I knew nothing about the March sisters before this but now I feel like I’m part of the family, and this is a special film. I thought this film would be good but I didn’t even see the trailer, so I was surprised when this ended up being my favourite film of 2019.

Score: 100/100

Incredibles 2 (2018)

Incredibles 2 (2018)
Incredibles 2 poster
IMDb

Released: June 15, 2018. Directed by: Brad Bird. Starring: Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell. Runtime: 1h 58 min.

Writer/director Brad Bird and stars Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson are well-aware it’s been 14 years since the The Incredibles, as they address this wait before screenings of Incredibles 2. It is a long time – long enough for Holly Hunter (Helen Parr/Elastigirl) to turn 60, the same age Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible) was when they made the original in 2004.

But now Incredibles 2 is finally here and it’s a great nostalgia trip after all these years. I smiled so much during the opening scene because it’s so entertaining, and I thought it was worth the price of admission alone.

Politicians of Metroville still want superheroes to stay hidden and not intervene. Not everyone wants supers to be hidden – as the CEO of a telecommunications company, Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) have come up with a way to get supers back in the good graces of Metroville.

They want to use Elastigirl (Hunter) to show the government supers can save the day without a lot of structural damage. That’s the main reason they pick her over Bob (Craig T. Nelson) – because he causes the city so much money. “Big problems need big solutions,” Bob explains. This time, Helen’s out on secret missions and Bob’s the stay-at-home dad.

It’s so cool watching Elastigirl fight crime for the bulk of the film this time, as her powers of stretching all over the place is visually more interesting than Bob just using his strength on everything. Plus, Holly Hunter is generally amazing so more screen time for her is welcome. The rest of the voice cast is also really great.

The main plot is Helen foiling the plans of a mysterious figure called the Screenslaver, which is entertaining and has a lot of well-animated, dazzling action scenes. Some aspects are predictable, but the pure entertainment of the third act more than makes up for it. The story’s also very well-written.

incredibles-2-actual-featured.jpg
IMDb

I generally loved the plot so much because it’s so cool going back to these characters, and the Parr’s family dynamic still feels fresh after 14 years. The parents do switch roles this time. Bob deals with jealousy of Helen fighting crime and him being pushed into the shadows of parenting, and it’s handled with humour.

He seems more like Bob in this film than Mr. Incredible, but he shines whenever he’s in his super suit. Speaking of super suits, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) also has enough chances to shine. Other fan favourite Edna E. Mode (Brad Bird) also has a great appearance.

Bob helping Dash (Huck Milner) with homework and him screwing up trying to help Violet (Sarah Vowell) with boy problems will be relatable for dads. The biggest laughs come from the scene-stealing Jack Jack (Eli Fucile) who’s unable to control his newfound powers. That’s a huge thing Bob has to deal with. Anyone who’s seen the Jack Jack Attack short film will definitely love this sub-plot. He’s one of the most entertaining aspects of the film and Brad Bird seems like he’s having a blast writing this.

Besides the great old characters, we get to know a few new heroes – Sophia Bush as Voyd, for example – and they’re fun side characters that Bird explores. The film’s storyline flows nearly as well as the original and the dialogue’s still sharp and the humour’s great. Michael Giacchino’s score helps a lot with the film’s nostalgic feeling, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Score: 90/100