Director Greta Gerwig reteams with her Ladybird star Saoirse Ronan for a cast-heavy but still nimble adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s story of sisters making a home and making a life in spite of of limited options and opportunties. (Neither Meryl Streep as stern Aunt March nor Emma Watson as pretty Meg are given room to let their sheer star power overwhelm the proceedings, while Timothee Chalamet as Laurie and Laura Dern as Marmee do solid enough work, and Florence Pugh as tempremental Amy and Chris Cooper as gruff Mr. Laurence give great delight.) And it is very much an adaptation, the narrative scrambled so that it tells the story of a writer’s beginnings: Jo’s journey from a citified hack scribbling for money to a serious artist with the humility and courage to mine her seemingly humdrum life for material. The book she will eventually write is about her family, but this here story is Jo’s. She is not always onscreen, but everything we’re shown is for her sake. Ronan handles her central role with aplomb, but the shift does tend to drain some of the surrounding events of their emotional affect — as if they will only gain their proper force and meaning once they’ve been put on the page. Still, an expert and elegant retelling. (2019) — Matthew Lickona
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