...is a movie I'm excited to see. That isn't to say I've made up my mind to like the movie before I've seen it (which some fans of various fandoms seem to do, and I'm sure they're happier for it). I hope very much that I will like it, and so far things are looking good, but there's a chance it could turn out that looking at and speculating over the pictures is as good as it gets. Well, they are great pictures, and I'll be looking at them in detail so here's a spoiler warning: I know what happens in this story, and I will be writing about it.
If you haven't already but would like to, you can easily read all about what is known about the movie so far on various websites (cast, release dates, interviews etc.), so I'm not going to repeat all that. You can also see all the pictures that have been released, of course, but what you won't get anywhere else (so far, as far as I'm aware) is a fan of the book (and other adaptations) geeking out and analysing what the images suggest about the upcoming film. I'll mention briefly that writer/director Greta Gerwig has said the new adaptation will focus mainly on Book 2, what we British call Good Wives (though I've read that Louisa M. Alcott never approved that title), as the two volumes are almost always published separately in the UK (while apparently many Americans don't even realise it has two volumes); material from Book 1 is to appear in the form of thematically linked flashbacks (well, that sounds fine to me).
Most of the images I am examining first appeared in this Vanity Fair article; others were released by Emma Watson (Meg) on her Instagram; a few are from other sources. First of all, thanks go to Emma for giving us this, quite early in the proceedings:
Without wishing to sound at all snooty or condescending, the best any article I read could make of this image was that it showed cast members 'in period costume', ignoring the fact that the girls are all dressed as men. But they are dressed up for their Pickwick Society game, of course! Most definitely a Book 1 moment, with the actors (joined by Greta) depicting Laurie's and the sisters' younger years.
Leading on quite nicely from this, we can see Jo, Meg and Amy at another of their children's games i.e. putting on a play of Jo's devising:
I am absolutely positive about those first two images, and I will be extremely surprised if I'm wrong, but I may be wrong about some of these pictures (just by the law of averages, I probably am). This next one though, depicting another Book 1 moment, I'm still fairly confident about:
Here, Emma Watson is receiving instructions for a scene that has to be taking place at the party where Meg drinks and flirts and wears some make-up (though of course she refuses rouge... in the book) and wears an unsuitable borrowed dress and has to be talked round by Laurie. It's not the only party Meg attends in Book 1, but the body language here shows she's not having fun, and assuredly she is wearing That Dress. So that was easy, but now I'm going to go out on a limb and make a suggestion that this scene is thematically linked to the following incident from Book 2:
It's Meg again, and at first glance, she could be thinking about absolutely anything. Maybe she's not doing what I think she's doing at all; maybe she's reading/writing letters instead, because there are a couple there... but that doesn't sound very interesting. Rather, I suggest that the prop directly in front of her is an account book, into which (in the book) she doesn't quite like to enter the expense of $50 worth of silk that Sallie Moffat (née Gardiner) helps her to convince herself to buy (if you see what I mean). When this happens, Meg is newly married and not used to managing a tight budget, and she still wants the beautiful things her well-off friends have - just as she did at that party! She does make up for it, though, and hopefully I'm right about this so we can see that touching moment in the film.
It looks as though Meg is going to get quite a lot of screen time (and I hope that's true). A while before the above pictures of her were released, Emma Watson was filmed (by an opportunistic amateur, if I remember rightly) either filming or rehearsing (depending on what you read) with a carpet bag out on the street:
I don't think that car is going to make the final cut! Naturally, there was a lot of modern stuff in the footage I saw. I would link you to the video, but I can't seem to find it again (sorry). If you haven't seen it for yourself, then, you'll have to take my word for it when I tell you that at one point, Meg gets out of a carriage (perhaps an omnibus?) and enters a building, which is very exciting because I've never seen that in a Little Women adapation before! It looks like a Book 2 moment to me; I could be wrong, but my judgement is that Meg looks like she's doing wife and maybe mum stuff here.
Now here's a video I can link you to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew3pSnInHk4 - and here's a screen-cap from it:
Judging by the girls' poses and expressions here, Meg is giving Amy money for limes, and Jo is thinking she ought not to do so (I don't suppose Beth has a strong opinion either way). Watching the video, it can only be that scene from Book 1! As to what it may link to from Book 2... I can't think!
So, while I'm feeling less sure of myself, here's a picture that I cannot place:
Either there's some deviation from the source material here, or I've just forgotten this bit where they all go to the beach with a picnic. Or are there things to do in those baskets? One thing it does remind me of is the 'Castles in the Air' scene (Book 1), in which the girls and Laurie (who has pursued them unnoticed, so this picture could depict this bit) talk about their hopes for the future whilst doing tasks (sewing etc.) in what they call the 'Busy Bee Society' (a very good idea because it makes them get things done!). The sand/beach aspect, though, does not remind me of that; it reminds me of when Jo (and only Jo) takes Beth to the coast in the hope that it will strengthen her (Book 2). Does Beth look a little frail here, and is that supportive arm of Jo's actually holding her up? Or not? I don't know. But the picture looks great anyway - very much like a Little Women adaptation should look!
I do know that some location filming took place at Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum, thanks chiefly to this article from the Harvard Gazette, and it even provides some information on what is being depicted here i.e. Europe, and we all know who goes there. That is, in the book Amy meets up with Laurie abroad whilst accompanying the pretty much invisible Aunt Carrol; in most (but not all) adaptations, she's with Aunt March (and I can see why they did that). For this adaptation, Meryl Streep is confirmed to have been filming at this location. I have seen her character referred to in articles as Aunt March and Aunt Josephine. If her name is Josephine, that's a change from the book (unless it's a very brief and obscure reference that I've missed, but I don't think so!), but whatever they call her, she is certainly depicting the Aunt March character. Here she is being directed by Greta:
She looks ready to be grumpy enough for any scene, I'd say, but I'm afraid I'm not expert enough to tell specifically what she's grumpy about.
Now here are a couple of pictures of people (and horses) in costume filming at the Arnold Arboretum, though unfortunately these images capture neither any of the main cast nor the beauty of the place that I've seen in other pictures of it:
I guess we'll have to wait for the movie for both of those things, unless more pictures are released in the meantime. Until then, there's plenty more to enjoy and speculate over.
Though I make so bold as to claim I'm the first to attach these images to specific parts of the book, the Vanity Fair article does make reference to Book 1 when describing this picture of Saoirse Ronan: 'Jo’s odd, boyish habit of lying on the living room rug to unwind':
While I'm on Jo, I feel positive that the following must be her rejection of Laurie's proposal (just look at their anguished expressions!):
Later on, as all fans know (whether they like it or not - and I'm fine with it, by the way, though I know others are not), Laurie discovers that Jo and Amy have 'switched places in [his] heart'. The following shows Florence Pugh and Timothée Chalamet filming, I should think, party time in Europe. For me the most memorable part of that exchange in Book 2 is Amy explaining to Laurie the cheap 'illusion' fabric making her dress look more expensive. This doesn't seem to be what's happening in the picture, but rather Laurie is helping Amy to button up amidst some unresolved sexual tension:
As with the limes incident, I don't have any suggestions for what this may link to, if anything. The whole story of Amy and Laurie's courtship surely links best, of everything in Book 1, to him talking her round about going to Aunt March's to avoid scarlet fever; indeed, other adaptations have created links there, though not in the form of flashbacks (I'm thinking specifically of the 1994 movie, 'I promise to kiss you before you die', and the 1978 mini-series, 'Laurie, come be good to me!').
Speaking of scarlet fever, we haven't seen many pictures of Eliza Scanlen as Beth yet, but here's one of her and only her looking very happy with some flowers:
This could reasonably be just about any point in the novel when Beth is alive and well, but judging by the floral theme of the image - including the wreath on her head - my guess is that she's preparing for Meg's wedding. As this takes place very near the beginning of Book 2, Meg's 'current' storyline (if you see what I mean) will follow her married life, as I was discussing earlier. This train of thought brings me to another image that Emma Watson posted quite early on, accompanied by a caption that introduced Laura Dern as Marmee. It's actually hard to see that it is Laura Dern (though I did not doubt Emma's word on the matter), but luckily we now have a clearer picture of her in the same scene (quite clearly):
Little Women and Jurassic Park (the movie) are two of my favourite things ever, so I was pretty chuffed to read that Laura Dern would be playing the part of Marmee. Here she's talking to Meg (or about to be when Greta gets out of shot), who is looking pretty housewifely; I believe they are in Meg and John's house, and Marmee is advising Meg on not neglecting John now that they have children, and allowing him to play more of a role in their upbringing (or rather that of their boy Demi, she says in the book, but perhaps not in this 2019 movie). Going back to my guess about Meg and her account book, that's potentially two scenes showing the teething problems in Meg and John's marriage where Meg really is the one in the wrong. If I'm right, I hope she gets plenty of redeeming moments too!
I must admit, this blog post has been totally unstructured. I've been putting up pictures in the order of my train of thought, and now I have just one left:
It's a lovely one of the four sisters. Since they're looking curiously out of a window, I think it must be Laurie they're looking at, before they've met him and they're wondering about him. I seem to be a little obsessed with Beth's health, because I now wonder why she's the only one sitting down in this picture, though it can't mean anything. I cannot conceive that there is, or that anyone could create, any moment post-scarlet fever in which all four girls look out of a window together. I tell you, it's just not possible!
Well, that's all the pictures, and so I must finish. I find it hard to finish things, but since I'm blogging about Little Women, I'll leave you with a quote that I have often thought I ought to quote. First I shall introduce it with Marmee's often-quoted line: 'To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience.' There it was, and I think it's a shame and a disservice whenever somebody leaves it there in order to argue that the book is not as ahead of its time as people claim: people like me! In fact, Marmee goes on to say quite a lot more, including:
'Better be happy old maids than unhappy wives, or unmaidenly girls, running about to find husbands.'
- Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, 1868 - Chapter 9: Meg Goes to Vanity Fair