How Sony is selling the latest adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel.
The story of Little Women is one that’s been told on film a number of times over the decades. Now writer/director Greta Gerwig is bringing her own interpretation of the material to screens with an all-star cast and a modern sensibility that still retains the story’s original setting.
As always, the story revolves around the women of the March family, with matriarch Marmee (Laura Dern) and daughters Beth (Eliza Scanlen), Amy (Florence Pugh), Meg (Emma Watson) and Jo (Saoirse Ronan). With the men all gone fighting the Civil War they have to make it on their own and count on each other. All four have their own dreams and desires but come up against the standards of the time, which don’t let a woman claim her independence or make her own way in the world.
In marketing the film, Columbia Pictures/Sony has relied on audience’s familiarity with the source material while also promoting the presence of some of today’s most buzzed-about young actors.
Jo is shown running toward the camera on the first poster (by marketing agency Works Adv) from October. The other main characters are relegated to horizontal photo strips off to the side, there to be shown off to the audience but clearly not the focus of the movie. “Own your story” conveys the take-charge attitude audiences will encounter when they see it.
A series of character posters that offer fuller looks at the cast came out shortly after that.
One final poster shows the four March sisters looking anxiously out the window anxiously, emphasizing one more time the weight of the cast on display here.
It’s very much the classic story we’re all familiar with being shown in the first trailer (7.6 million views on YouTube), released in early August. While the characters and plot may be largely known to us, the selling point then becomes the cast that’s been assembled by Gerwig, one that includes some of the most buzzed-about talent working today. Aside from that, the message sent to the audience is that women can do whatever it is they want and should be allowed to do so my men and society as a whole, which still remains an important one.
Online and Social
There’s actually some good stuff on the movie’s official website, including a “March Sisters Quiz” to help you determine which one you’re the most like.
Advertising and Publicity
The movie gained significant awards season momentum following a press/SAG/DGA screening in October.
Laurie asks Jo to dance in the first clip, released in early November. A second clip released a bit later has the two discussing the economic realities of love and marriage in the era. Additional clips had Auntie Marsh talking about Jo’s need to be married and her frustration at the whole of patriarchal society.
An extended TV commercial came out in late November that offered a recap of the story, focusing on Jo’s special place in the family and her unwillingness to accept the fate that awaits her as a woman in that era.
The movie’s premiere was held last week, with Gerwig and the cast all showing up to chat about the production and more.
Little Free Libraries was the only promotional partner for the film, putting movie-branded boxes of books in select cities across the country. Sony donated 2,000 copies of Little Women to be stocked in those and other locations as well.
Most of the cast participated in a “Tiny Kitchen” vignette, watching as a movie-themed tiny kitchen was assembled.
Media and Press
While also talking about other projects, Ronan spoke on what it was like to reunite with her Lady Bird director. Pugh commented on the movie and its story while she was in Sundance earlier this year promoting other projects. Reports circulated in April that this was the second choice Sony had in mind if Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, the new movie from Quentin Tarantino, wasn’t ready for screening at Cannes.
Vanity Fair offered a first look at the pairing of Ronan and Chalamet in mid-June. Interviews with Pugh while she was promoting Midsomer earlier this year often included comments about transitioning from that production to this one and what a welcome relief the change was.
An interview with Gerwig from about the same time the trailer was released has her sharing her thoughts on assembling the powerful cast and making the most of their talents.
A brief Chalamet profile came out that touched only on very high-level topics and only briefly mentioned this movie. That came at about the same time as an EW cover story featuring both Chalamet and Ronan where they talked about working together again and the natural chemistry they enjoy on screen as well as an interview with Pugh where she shared her approach to her character and attachment to the material.
The October screening included a Q&A with Gerwig and the cast where they talked about the story and how they got into character.
What drew her to offer yet another take on the familiar story and how she assembled the impressive cast were covered by Gerwig in another interview where she talked about the research she did in preparation for production. The ways in which she and the cast updated that material were the topic of a joint profile with her and Pugh.
While the focus was on other things, costar Tracy Letts briefly commented on his enthusiasm for working with Gerwig again after getting to know her while filming Lady Bird.
Chalamet spoke about the movie when he appeared on “Late Night” several weeks ago.
A profile of Ronan had her acknowledging the likely importance of this role in her career while also emphasizing how committed she was to getting that role while Gerwig talked about how she approached Jo and working with the actor.
In a nice touch, the movie was endorsed by Gillian Armstrong, who directed the much-loved 1994 version.
How cast and crew assembled to make the very old novel interesting and relevant to the modern times was the subject of an extended feature profile that encompassed comments from many of those involved.
Gerwig’s influence on the story and her ability to manage the cast were all commented on by those involved at the film’s premiere a few weeks ago.
The stars of the film expressed their collective dismay at Gerwig’s being overlooked for a Golden Globes director nomination.
The movie’s release allowed for a new conversation about the source book and its rightful place in the American literary canon and the reasons it might not be currently occupying that position.
Gerwig spoke about how long she’s had the ending of the movie in mind and what it took for her to get it made.
Selling an all-female drama set in during the Civil War should be a hard task, but by selling it as a piece of modern filmmaking with whipsmart dialogue uttered by some of the most critically-praised actors in recent years is a solid way around that problem.
A movie like this should be benefitting from all sorts of awards season buzz, but as many people have noted it’s oddly not. The reasons why are unknown (though plenty of speculation has been bandied about) but whatever they are it means a crucial part of the hype cycle is missing, which could impact its chances for success at the box office as well.
Despite that, what’s sold here is all manner of enticing. Throughout the campaign Gerwig has promised anything but a staid period drama. Instead what audiences are offered is a vital, fresh, energetic take on the material that reflects both the past and the present.