Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without any presents, as Meg March sighed, but luckily, this December, we’ll be getting the best present of all. That’s when a new adaptation of Little Women from Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig is coming out, and judging from the just-released trailer, it will be a gift to us all, regardless of whether we celebrate Christmas or not.
The trailer is the sweetest of teases for the new movie, featuring in rapid-fire montage some of the most beloved moments from Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel. We see the four penniless but spirited March sisters putting on a play, while boy-next-door Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) watches in awe.
There’s a quick shot of headstrong and independent Jo (Lady Bird’s Saoirse Ronan, reuniting with Gerwig) accidentally burning ladylike Meg’s hair as Meg (Emma Watson) shrieks in horror. There’s Jo and Laurie dancing in the back halls of a party to hide Jo’s scorched dress. There’s Meryl Streep as disapproving Aunt March. There’s beautiful period dresses and 19th-century Concord strewn with snow and everything that makes Little Women so cozy and heartwarming to read.
But there’s also a hint of the energy and ambition and discontent that makes Little Women still feel radical and unsettling today. Famously, Alcott declined to marry ambitious Jo off to Laurie, despite the mountains of letters she received from readers begging her to write the pair into a happy ending. And the trailer shows us a hint of Laurie’s disastrous marriage proposal — “I would be a perfect saint!” he protests to a disbelieving Jo — and returns over and over again to Jo repeating that she wants more from her life than marriage.
In Alcott’s Little Women, Jo does end up getting married in the end: not to Laurie, but to the avuncular professor Bhaer. But this trailer pointedly makes no mention of Bhaer, and the French actor who plays him, Louis Garrel, does not appear. Instead, the trailer focuses on Jo herself, and her ambition of becoming a great author. It also turns its attention to the ambitions of her sisters, both professional and domestic. When it closes, it’s on Jo, looking dashing in menswear, staring in exasperation at the editor who wants to know who the heroine in her book is going to marry.
Romance, in this new Little Women, is apparently not going to be the point. Ambition is.