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Actor Spotlight: Florence Pugh (Little Women)

After finishing the Little Women Movie Review, I had to intentionally leave out this performance because I wanted to focus on Saoirse Ronan's portrayal Jo March. But no review of this movie is complete without the shout out to Florence Pugh playing the role of Amy March.

In looking back at the 1994 Little Women with Winona Ryder, the character of Amy March was played by Kirsten Dunst but when Amy goes to Europe, they switch actresses to a more grown up Samantha Mathis. So at face value, I think what is glaring about Florence Pugh's performance is that she plays both ages of Amy, and transitions through these formative years of the Amy March character perfectly!

And the gift that we get to see with Florence Pugh playing Amy throughout her character arc is that we get to see how far she has come, how similar she is to her sister Jo, and how her romance with Laurie finally came to reality.

First, we start with Amy when she is younger... We see her first lock eyes on Laurie who is of course head over heels for Jo and pays little attention to Amy. She has dreams very similar to Jo and wants to "make her own way in the world." But despite this similarity, Jo believes Amy's dream to be more "crass" and ignores this common bond with her sister.

And not to completely victimize Amy, because her relationship with Jo came to a head when Amy burned Jo's book in protest of not getting to go to the theater with Laurie. So while the immaturity is there, the fight that Jo possesses is also very present.

When Amy falls through the ice and Jo is left thinking that Amy could have died because of her commitment to a grudge... we actually see a fantastic scene with Marmee (Laura Dern) talking with Jo about how, like her, she is angry almost every day....

But what is left unsaid in this scene is that Amy - has a little bit of that fight as well.

Some of it comes with the immaturity of being young but as she gets older, she still has that edge that clearly came from her mother, which was also passed down to Jo. We see that in her frustration with being a woman in this patriarchal world (very much like Jo) as well as her confrontation with Laurie, calling him out for not fulfilling his potential in Europe (on multiple occasions).

Now let's talk about her romance with Laurie (played by Timothee Chalamet). A big selling point for this performance, is that you completely buy into why Laurie and Amy would be perfect for each other, despite the audience just being left on a hill with Laurie when Jo refused his hand in marriage.

This connection was largely left unestablished in the 1994 version because of the switch in actresses, so in some ways... the director did not even see how she could bridge the romance between the young Kirsten Dunst and Christian Bale.

Florence Pugh plays into her character arc perfectly.

This scene, dives into Amy's views on marriage as an economic proposition. While she is not opposed to marriage like her sister, she is not going to settle for anything less than the dreams of luxury that she is pursuing as fruits of her own career.

"I want to be great or nothing." What is truly transcendent about this quote is that this was directly from Louisa May Alcott in 1868! Truly beyond her years. And in the behind the scenes interview, Director Greta Gerwig, pointed this out and how truly timeless and current this story remains in the 21st century.

In this scene Amy also says this regarding marriage:

"I am not a poet, I am just a woman. And as a woman there is no way for me to make my own money... not enough to earn a living or to support my family. And if I had my own money, which I don't, that money would belong to my husband the moment we got married. And if we had children they would be his, not mine... they would be his property - so don't sit there and tell me that marriage is not an economic proposition - because it is... It may not be for you but it most certainly is for me."

If you were to take this quote at face value... you would have a hard time deciding if this was said by Saoirse Ronan or Florence Pugh. And to me, that is one of the main reasons why this movie does such a good job of giving the audience "buy in" to the romance between Laurie and Amy. Because in this scene... Laurie figured it out. The same fierce independence that he loved in Jo is also in Amy, but Amy... has her heart to give him.

Which leads us into one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie...

This. Scene. The exchange from Florence Pugh and Timothee Chalamet, to the wardrobe design and the score by Alexandre Deslpat... It is perfect.

We see the timeline of Laurie and Amy come to a head right in this moment. From everything we have seen up to this point. Amy has put aside her love for Laurie when he continuously ignored her in pursuit of Jo, but while the love was put aside... it never went away. So we see the pain coming back as well as the disbelief that Laurie could love her the way she saw him endlessly give his heart to Jo.

The gift that we get as an audience is seeing these emotions played out by Florence Pugh as one of her father's little women, all the way into adulthood. But what is important is that Laurie finally opened his eyes and not a moment too soon.

In closing, the Academy Awards did not give best actress to Saoirse Ronan, or best supporting actress to Florence Pugh, and they FAILED TO EVEN NOMINATE Greta Gerwig as Best Director... So many problems with those decisions. And it is so rare that you get this perfect of a cast pairing. This movie remains one of the best movies of 2019 and because of these Oscar worthy performances and direction by Greta Gerwig, it will remain in conversations for top 100 movies of all time... at least in my book.

To see where Little Women currently ranks on my Personal Top 100 Movies of All Time or where I believe this ranks among the Top 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.... follow the links.

- Joey Almars

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