Submitted by Evan B
Jo manages to sell the book containing the story of her family to a publisher for 6.6% of the profits and keeps the copyright. The March family opens a successful school and have all found love.
The film is told in a non-linear timeline.
Present: Josephine “Jo” March (Saoirse Ronan) sells a salacious short story to a publisher named Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts) and agrees to sell it for an under-market rate. Dashwood promises to buy more of the same type of stories, saying only that they must be shorter and that any female character must either end up married or dead by the end. She enjoys her money and published status, and also sends money back to her family. She is affronted when her fellow boarder/friend, a professor named Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel) tells her that she is squandering her obvious talent by writing frivolous stories. Jo insults Bhaer and swears never to see him again.
Past: Jo is the eldest of four sisters in the March family. Meg (Emma Watson), is gorgeous and a talented actress. Beth (Eliza Scanlen) is a talented musician, but is incredibly introverted and shy. Amy (Florence Pugh) is prone to jealousy and also a talented artist. Even as a younger girl, Jo is fiercely independent, a passionate writer that composes plays for the sisters to perform in, and aspires to be a great success. Although their family once was wealthy, they have fallen on harder times. They are being raised by their mother Marmee (Laura Dern) and nanny as their father (Bob Odenkirk) is fighting for the Union in the Civil War. Although they are on hard financial times, Marmee never hesitates to donate the March’s food and clothing to those less fortunate. They occasionally receive support from their wealthy Aunt March (Meryl Streep), who urges the sisters to marry into a wealthy family as it is the only way to ensure that their family is financially stable after she passes.
Present: Jo receives a letter that Beth is deathly ill. She decides to return home, feeling defeated and unfulfilled. As she returns home, she continues to reminisce.
Past: At a party, Jo meets a young boy named Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Timothée Chalamet) who happens to be the grandson of their very wealthy but reclusive neighbor, Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper). Laurie soon befriends the March clan, growing close to each of the sisters. It is clear that he is in love with Jo, and that Amy harbors a crush on him. Beth develops a father-daughter type relationship with Mr. Laurence, whose own daughter passed away young (and whose son also passed, leaving him to take care of Laurie). Meg is attracted to Laurie’s tutor John Brooke (James Norton) despite being accepted into high society and having wealthy suitors. Aunt March also intimates that she is willing to take Jo to Europe with her if she acts more traditionally. Though the family struggles to make ends meet, they are all very happy and very close (although like all siblings, full of in-fighting too). Each sister feels torn between pursuing their artistic endeavors or settling down for marriage for the sake of their family’s well-being.
Present: Jo arrives home. She is greeted by Meg and James, who are now married with children. The pair are happy, but very poor. Jo announces to Marmee that she is done trying to be a writer and decides to take Beth with her to the beach in hopes that it will help improve Beth’s health. It is also revealed that Amy is in Europe with Aunt March. While in Europe, Amy reconnects with Laurie. Laurie is drunkenly traveling through the continent after having been rejected by Jo. Amy berates Laurie for his bad behavior and lack of ambition.
Past: Marmee is forced to leave home when she gets news that her husband has been injured. John agrees to accompany Marmee and ensure the safe return of the March parents (earning his first kiss from Meg). The sisters feud without parental oversight and have less money and resources than ever. Nonetheless, Beth continues her mother’s charitable work and catches Scarlett Fever from one of the poorer families. They do not have the money to hire a doctor, but Jo swears to keep Beth alive. Amy is forced to live with Aunt March so she too does not catch Scarlett Fever (Meg and Jo are immune as they had it as kids).
Present: Beth and Jo are at the beach, where Beth asks Jo to write something to lift her spirits. Beth also explains that she has made peace with her impending death. Meanwhile in Europe, Amy tells Laurie that she will not be able to succeed as an artist and, therefore, intends to marry a wealthy suitor in order to provide for her family’s future. Laurie realizes that Amy has always loved him and he kisses her. Amy grows angry, exclaiming she doesn’t want to be a consolation prize just because Jo denied Laurie’s affection. Nonetheless, she turns down the proposal of a fabulously wealthy man (and disappoints Aunt March in doing so).
Past: Marmee returns and helps nurse Beth back to health. Soon thereafter, John brings their father home. He embraces his “little women.” With the family reunited, Meg and John wed. Aunt March decides to bring Amy to Europe as they have grown close while Beth was sick and Aunt March believes Amy will succeed in either art or attracting a wealthy husband. Laurie tells Jo that he is in love with her and proposes marriage. Although he is her best friend, Jo declines the proposal because she doesn’t love him and also, because she values her freedom. She decides to move to New York to pursue writing.
Present: Despite the family’s best efforts, Beth passes away. Jo is absolutely devastated by the passing (and grows closer with Mr. Laurence over their mutual sadness). Jo also decides to marry Laurie when he returns simply so she won’t be alone anymore. Meanwhile, Laurie cleans up his act and convinces Amy that he genuinely loves her. The pair get married before receiving the news that Beth passed away. They hurry back home. Although Jo is saddened to learn that Amy and Laurie have wed, she blesses their marriage (knowing in her heart that they were meant to be together). Aunt March dies and leaves her palatial estate to Jo. After touring the estate, Jo decides to open a school there. Inspired by Beth’s memory, she also begins writing a novel about their life and sends it to Mr. Dashwood. Although Mr. Dashwood initially rejects the book as it contains no action or adventure and is focused on female characters, he reconsiders when his own daughters take an intense liking to it.
Past: As the reunited March family (and their spouses and Mr. Laurence) prepare to eat a dinner together, Bhaer stops by. He explains that he is leaving for the West Coast (as he is an immigrant, he will find more job prospects there) and wanted to say good bye to Jo. The family realize that Jo is in love with Bhaer. After he departs in the pouring rain, they urge Jo to go after him and declare her love.
Present: Jo sits in Mr. Dashwood’s office with her complete novel. Dashwood agrees to publish it, but only if she changes the ending for Bhaer and Jo to end up married. Jo argues that this would be inconsistent to the character, but agrees to change the ending for a higher than market percentage of the royalties. Jo also declines Dashwood’s offer to buy the copyright to the book, entitled “Little Women,” deciding she’d prefer to keep ownership of her creation. The book is published and is a huge success. Jo (who is, in fact, married to Bhaer) has opened her school with all of her relatives teaching there.