You know how we’ve been having that “leave room for” conversation at this site the last couple of weeks about the Oscar race? Sarah started it with Sam Mendes’s 1917, and then there’s Queen & Slim, and of course Bombshell, and we must also leave room for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. It comes out at Christmas. The cast is STACKED: Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, and of course Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet as Jo and Laurie. As I’ve said before, I can’t wait for the inevitable meltdown when people who haven’t read the book or seen the 1994 version go in cold and find out that Jo and Laurie don’t end up together. Because of the characters, of course, but also because of the actors who play them – Saoirse and Timmy are an Internet Couple, not a real couple, never a real couple, but two people many desperately want to be a couple. The shipping is real.
The shippers have a LOT to savour then in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. They are adorable together in the interview, having now worked together three times, which means, in a way, they’ve also grown up together. So this is like reading chemistry, if chemistry can be read, and no, not sexual chemistry, and not even, necessarily, sibling chemistry, and best friend chemistry doesn’t quite capture it either. These are people who understand each other through their work and in their work, they have to be vulnerable and raw in a way that is personal but that ultimately doesn’t “belong” to them, since they’re not being themselves in those moments. It’s a very specific dance among actors, which is what makes acting such a romantically strange art-form. And it’s exactly the kind of connection that you need for Jo and Laurie – that’s why we hurt that they don’t end up together but also why we don’t fight it. Because what they have is so right that to have them fall in love, conventionally, like it’s a fairy tale, would undermine their bond. This paragraph in the EW piece nails it:
“[Saoirse and Timothee] They’re modeling a new brand of movie stardom — pursuing projects with a point of view, adamantly being themselves in the public eye, subverting gender norms. Their androgynous fashion performance here reflects their wardrobe shake-ups in Little Women: Gerwig and Oscar-winning costumer Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) had the two actors swapping clothes throughout filming, to reinforce the masculine-feminine fluidity between Jo and Laurie. “They are two halves,” as Pascal puts it. “These are really bold characters that are really different than you’ve seen them before.”
But God there’s a lot going on in that paragraph, non? It’s both their characters and themselves, how in character they navigate their relationship with themselves and then each other and how in real life, they’re navigating the peculiar identity shift from adolescence to adulthood through the lens of the fame factor that can distort and claim identity in ways beyond their control. So far, they’ve handled it beautifully.
That said…this isn’t the only love story happening here. The love story that’s equally as intense is the one between Saoirse and Greta Gerwig. Here’s how Saoirse describes working with Greta:
“The two of us, it’s a relationship I have with no other director,” Ronan continues. “She makes me feel like I can try anything.”
Isn’t that what you would say about a life partner? Reminds me of the lyrics in Kacey Musgraves’s song “Butterflies”:
Now you're lifting me up, instead of holding me down
Stealing my heart instead of stealing my crown
Untangled all the strings round my wings that were tied
Kacey’s singing about a “lover”, in the traditional sense, but this is how Saoirse talks about her partnership with her director, Greta. It started with Lady Bird. It continues with Little Women. And I feel like there will be more. In the same way that Michael B Jordan and Ryan Coogler continue to find work together. And before that Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. These are muse-director relationships…although none of these are the closest comparison I would make to Saoirse and Greta.
For that, what comes to mind for me are Kirsten Dunst and Sofia Coppola, maybe because I just re-watched Marie Antoinette the other night. At the time of its release, it wasn’t necessarily all that well received, and it is uneven for sure, but it didn’t deserve the dismissal it got when it first came out, and now that it’s been almost 15 years, and perspectives have shifted, you can understand why it became a cult favourite and what Sofia was trying to do with this story. Reading about Greta’s vision for Little Women reminded me so much of Sofia’s ambition for Marie Antoinette – from the connection between Jo and Laurie, mirrored in the trust and companionship between Marie Antoinette and King Louis, to Marie’s time, both frivolous and serious, with her best friends, which is also what we have in Little Women with the March sisters.
Muse-director relationships are revered in Hollywood…when it’s men. But here are two examples of the female muse-director relationship that have given us some of our most memorable, beloved movies. (I mean, sure, we haven’t seen Little Women yet but people already lost their minds over the trailer, chances are the film will deliver.) Hopefully they’ll be considered with equal gravitas.
PS. THIS LOOK ON TIMMY!
Click here to read the full EW article on Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, and Little Women.