Alternate Character Interpretation: Did Jo go after Bhaer and get married to him, or did she only write that as happening in your book? The film presents it just ambiguously enough that either interpretation is valid. Its worth noting that Jo doesnt seem too upset when shes told that the main character has to marry, giving a warm smile when she agrees to write it in. Could be because she got together with Bhaer and while she didnt want to force her main character to marry, it ultimately reminds her of her own romance and that makes her smile? Could it be because while shes forced to change the book, she knows that her work will end up being published and that happiness overpowers her getting forced to change that part? Could it be that she didnt get together with Bhaer but still harbors affection for him and enjoys the idea of them marrying even if she herself decided against doing so in real life?
Jo quotes a letter by Louisa May Alcott that sums up the thesis of the movie rather bluntly (However, the trailers are partly to blame for this, leaving out the final line, "But I'm so lonely"):
"Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they've got ambition, and they've got talent, as well as just beauty. Im so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. Im so sick of it!"
Amy's speech about marriage as an "economic proposition" is also quite anvilicious, considering what we've already learned about legal and social restrictions on female autonomy at the time. Unsurprisingly this bit wasn't in the script, and was thought up by Meryl Streep moments before it was filmed.
As soon as the Oscar nominations were announced, plenty took to Twitter to complain about Greta Gerwig being passed over for a Best Director nomination.
Saoirse Ronan was widely thought to be a shoe-in for Best Actress, having missed out on winning for Atonement and Brooklyn. Despite her work as Jo being considered some of her best in years, she lost out to Renée Zellweger for Judy; which, while well-received, was more blatantly Oscar Bait.
Florence Pugh was considered one of the best portrayals of Amy March, and one of the best performances in the film in general. And she lost out ironically to her co-star Laura Dern for Marriage Story - in a win that was widely felt to be a Consolation Award for being in a string of critically acclaimed projects.
Eliza Scanlen was considered a show stealer, fleshing Beth out greatly, but she wasn't even nominated.
Beth here gets just as much screen time as her sisters, several nice scenes with Mr. Laurence and is brought to life by Eliza Scanlen in a way that she feels like a fully formed person rather than a Sacrificial Lamb.
Mr. Laurence also ended up being well liked due to Chris Coopers warm, heartbreaking work and strong chemistry with Eliza Scanlen.
Marmee also counts as Laura Derns lovable turn endeared the character to many.
Esoteric Happy Ending: The film ends on a bittersweet note. While Beth is dead and no one matched up quite with whom they expected, the family is still together leading fulfilling, comfortable and happy lives. But is Jo's happy ending really happy? Can she live in close proximity to a man she was and perhaps is still in love with? And can Laurie really stay committed to his Settle for Sibling marriage while in close proximity to the woman he spent his early life loving? And since the family relies on Laurie's money, any problems in their various relationships could jeopardize the whole family's survival.
Hollywood Homely: In spite of being played by Saoirse Ronan, Jo describes herself as "homely" twice. Even Beth, the nicest of the sisters, says that her hair is her one good feature.
Misaimed Fandom: As always, there several viewers who say that Jo shouldve gotten together with Laurie; even though the film makes it explicitly clear that Jo doesnt love him.
MST3K Mantra: Due to the Anachronic Order structure of the film, people like to theorise that the flashbacks are merely Jo's memories rather than literal - to explain why the actresses (especially Florence Pugh) still look mostly the same age. There are several scenes where Jo wasn't present, which requires the viewer to pretend Jo is imagining them or her interpretation of them.
Older Than They Think: Greta Gerwig intentionally wanted to parallel Jo with Louisa May Alcott - hence the metatextual scenes of the publisher discussing how the story should end. This was previously touched on in the 1994 version, where Jo's characterization was tailored to more closely resemble the author's. This post explains it further.
When Laurie and Meg dance at the coming out party, the chemistry between Timothée Chalamet and Emma Watson is pretty good and some thought she shares more with him than James Norton (who plays her actual love interest).
The chemistry between Jo and Laurie in this version is so fitting that it almost feels like an Informed Flaw when Jo says they're too mismatched, and she gets more scenes with him than Bhaer. Probably a side effect of Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet playing love interests in Lady Bird as well. And in this version Jo does reconsider his proposal only to discover he's already married Amy. Of course thats Subverted, as its made clear that she only reconsiders become shes so lonely, and she still doesnt love him.
Despite the possible idea that Jo and Bhaer dont actually get together, many think that they come across as a strong couple in this version, and prefer to think that their marriage really did happen.
For over a century readers have resented Amy for her bratty behavior as a child, and for supposedly "stealing" Laurie from Jo. However, Florence Pugh's Oscar-nominated portrayal of Amy has been particularity well-received. While not much about her character was changed, the film puts a bit more emphasis on her, both as a Foil to Jo and as a complex woman in her own right. It helps that due to the Anachronic Order, she is first introduced as a mature, intelligent adult, therefore leaving a better first impression, and her relationship with Laurie is given more focus; not to mention Child Amy also gets some of the funnier scenes in the movie.
Similarly, the Amy/Laurie ship, which was seen for years as Laurie settling for Jo's sister because he couldn't have Jo, has now become much more popular.
She Really Can Act: After her divisive performance in Beauty and the Beast (2017), many wrote off Emma Watson as an actress. Her work here was seen as a pleasant surprise to many who thought she did a good job holding her own against much more acclaimed actors. It helped that she went against type from more Not Like Other Girls roles (Jo would be more within type for her) to play the more traditionally feminine and ladylike Meg.
Shipper on Deck: In-Universe; All of Jo's family encourage her to go after Professor Bhaer and even drive her in the carriage to catch him at the station. However, given the Ambiguous Ending, this may just be part of the book Jo's writing, not her actual life.
Strangled by the Red String: Some didnt see much in the way of chemistry between Florence Pugh as Amy and Timothée Chalamet as Laurie. There are those who thought the latter seemed too aloof and apathetic during their scenes together, with others believing their positive interactions are too few and far between in comparison to their arguments for them to look like a happy couple.
The 1994 film adaptation set the bar very high (a 92% adaptation), so another theatrical film had the odds stacked against it. However this ended up averted, with Greta Gerwig doing her own spin on the story, and several incarnations of the characters that were considered better or equal to previous versions.
This was also Greta Gerwig's second film after her Sleeper Hit that was Lady Bird (which has a whopping 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). A month after its release, Little Women was getting great reviews, so it seems this is subverted too.
Unintentionally Sympathetic: Fred Vaughn is never shown doing anything wrong, but Laurie comes to his party in a drunken stupor, insulting him and embarrassing him in front of all of his guests, friends, and family, and later goes on to steal his fiancée. Kind of hard not to feel bad for him.
Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Despite being her Love Interest, Laurie frequently acts like an ass towards Amy for no good reason. He stands her up, humiliate her at a party, and condescendingly judges her for marrying for money, stuff he never did in the book. All of this comes across as much worse when you remember he never treated Jo in such a rude manner while they were together.
Win the Crowd: Announcement of yet another adaptation was first met with rolled eyes, especially in light of The BBCMini Series that had just come out. However once the announcement of the cast members - Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Laura Dern as Marmee and Meryl Streep as Aunt March - as well as Greta Gerwig as director, excitement for the film grew.
As in every other version, poor Beth applies. Shes already sympathetic based on her shy, timid nature alone, but watching her struggle with her health in a battle is heartbreaking, especially since she and her family know she cant win it.
Mr. James Laurence applies as well. Chris Cooper plays him in a way where you feel an inherent sadness and regret present, which makes much more sense when you know his backstory, and how he ended pushed his child away when he disapproved of his romance, with them dying not long afterwards. When he meets the March family, Mr. Laurence goes on to become close with Beth, treating her with parental like affectation. When she dies hes shown to be in mourning, with Jo finding him wandering around her house, causing Laurence to confess that he wants to go in and grieve with the family, but hes in too much pain to do so.
Jo also applies. Shortly after having her heartbroken by when her sister dies she breaks down and cries about how lonely she feels, getting to the point where she seriously considers marrying Laurie even though she herself is aware that she doesnt actually love him, wanting to do so only to alleviate her feelings of isolation.
While she herself is a famously outspoken feminist, some thought that Emma Watson stuck out in a cast otherwise filled with much more prestigious, critically acclaimed actors. With that being said, her performance was mostly well received.
WTH, Costuming Department?: Even though the film won the best costume design Oscar, it's been criticized for its wildlyinaccuratecostumes, even given the benefit of creative liberty. The girls wear seemingly new cotton dresses during the parts that take place in the war, even though there was a cotton shortage and there's no way for them to have gotten new ones made. None of them wear hand-me-downs, from each other or from Marmee even though given their financial situation, they would in real life. The silhouettes are, by and large, too thin for the decade. They never wear bonnets and wear their hair down, when they should be wearing them with their hair up. (Although technically it should be noted that how the characters wear their hair would fall under makeup and hairstyling, for which the film wasn't nominated for an Oscar.)