bitchy | Will Saoirse Ronan & Timothee Chalamet’s chemistry save ‘Little Women’?
In August, we saw the first trailer for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, and… I was a bit disappointed in it. I still feel like the central roles of Jo (Saoirse Ronan) and Laurie (Timothee Chalamet) were cast brilliantly. But the rest of the casting choices bug me, and the trailer wasn’t great. I’m saying that as a huge fan of the book and a lover of film-adapted classics. But damn, Emma Watson seems out of place. As does Laura Dern. And Meryl Streep, frankly. Anyway, as a “fall preview” for Oscar-bait films, Entertainment Weekly put Saoirse and Timothee on their cover. The cover and cover shoot is gorgeous, and the interaction between Chalamet and Ronan is beautiful and I want to live there. That being said, the cover story is all about the adaptation and it STILL seems like it’s going to be a big mess? You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
The imagery of Timothee is perfect: During a break that follows, he wanders, gripping a paper bag stuffed with assorted bagels — from Tompkins Square Bagels, which Chalamet, a lifelong New Yorker, insists are the best in the city — and offering one to anyone in his path. He sings and dances — very Elio-in-the-town-square-like — to Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues.” He creeps behind a distracted Ronan before spooking her with a yelp. “I didn’t even know you were there!” she exclaims, reddening from the fright but with a smile so lovingly at ease, you sense she’s used to the prank.
The difference in the production between this & Lady Bird: “I felt very prideful… about how big it had gotten, how many people were there,” Chalamet recounts. “On Lady Bird it was, like, 25 people hanging out in a house!”
Saoirse on Timothee: “He keeps me on my toes — I’m never quite sure what he’s going to do next. That only progressed more and grew more. It helped that we do have a very natural rapport with each other…. These two characters physically need to be very comfortable with one another. They’re literally intertwined for half the film.” Chalamet adds: “In the least clichéd way possible, it really doesn’t feel like [I’m] acting sometimes [with her].”
How Greta adapted the story: The movie begins with the March sisters in adulthood — typically where the narrative’s second half begins — and unfolds like a memory play, shifting back and forth between that present-day frame and extended flashbacks to the childhood scenes etched in the American literary canon. She poured the same love into iconic scenes, like Jo and Laurie’s ebullient dance that follows their first meeting. Here it goes on longer — and more vibrantly — than in any previous iteration. (Ronan says they filmed it at 3 a.m., to boot, adding, “We must have done it, like, 30 times.”) Then there’s the devastating moment when Laurie asks Jo to marry him and she rejects his proposal. Gerwig tasked the two actors to unleash here. “Emotions just bubble over,” Ronan says. “[Greta] just let us go with it, wherever it went, from take to take. What I loved about that scene is that every take would be different emotionally. It didn’t have the same trajectory.”
Saoirse on Jo March: “When Louisa describes Jo, it felt like someone describing me physically: sort of gangly and stubborn and very straightforward, and went for what she wanted.” At an event for Lady Bird, she — in a very Jo kind of way — just “went at it” by approaching Gerwig. “I said, ‘So I want to be in Little Women, but only if I’m playing Jo.’” (Chalamet, for his part, was asked by Gerwig, “Hey, want to do another movie?” He responded: “Yes. Yes, please.”)
Ronan & Chalamet: “I love that in Lady Bird, you broke my heart,” she says to him softly. “In Little Women, I got to break your heart.” (Chalamet, ever the goofball, finds an obvious opening: “Yes, that’s true. Then I married your sister. Ha, ha, ha!”)
Honestly, I will watch this just for Ronan and Chalamet, because I think so highly of both of them and because I expect their chemistry with each other to carry the project. But! It probably would have been less expensive and more fun to just watch Saoirse and Timothee interact and play around and do silly things together, documentary-style. The rest of this film sounds like such a mess! The whole story is told IN FLASHBACKS. Stop.
Cover courtesy of EW, additional photos courtesy of Sony & Getty