Saoirse Ronan's principled support of her overlooked director is the kind of decision that her Little Women character Jo March would applaud.
This week Saoirse Ronan, 25, will delight audiences with her remarkable performance as Jo March in director Greta Gerwig's flawless new version of “Little Women,” which opens on December 25.
It's the performance of Ronan's career and she knows it, inhabiting her character so deeply she carries the film.
I would like to think that both Ronan and the film (which ranks among the best period dramas of its kind in the last three decades) will be amply rewarded at the Oscars in 2020 but it's already clear that quite a number of male awards voters have left the film off their best of 2019 list entirely.
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Reportedly deciding it's a “woman's picture,” many male awards voters have simply given the film a pass. And that kind of knee-jerk response has consequences.
We live in a world that sidelines women so often that most of us can't see it. It doesn't really matter, in the end, if we are failing to see talent or pointedly overlooking it because the result is roughly the same: the work is ignored.
Lorenzo Soria, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association which gives out the Globes told Variety that the lack of women filmmaker nominees again this year was a big non-issue. “What happened is that we don’t vote by gender. We vote by film and accomplishment,” he said.
You can almost hear him sniff.
Twas ever thus, though. The basic arithmetic of casual gender bias hasn't changed since Cleopatra was a girl. First, we deny women their platform, withholding opportunities that we afford to men, and then we take away their agency because if they speak up we deny there's any problem.
It's all in their imagination. It's not that they were ignored, we say, it's that there are so many men who have made films that simply speak to us more. Besides, all these women are so angry all the time that no one wants to engage with them now. Maybe if they smile more?
There is no way to win against a system that promises to reward you (Ronan has been nominated for Best Actress) whilst it overlooks all your co-creators (Gerwig made what many critics call the best film of the year but she was passed over, as was every other actress in the film).
“Getting to play Jo March, one of the most inspiring characters in literature, still today has been an honor,” Ronan wrote after Gerwig's snub. “I am eternally grateful to Greta Gerwig for her guidance and partnership, and for her fierce perseverance that brought this incredible cast together and created an environment for us to become a real family and tell this very special story. My performance in this film belongs to Greta as much as it does myself and I share this recognition completely with her.”
This kind of gracious response to a considerable provocation is considered not playing by the rules by some of the voters who guard access to our film culture. Because it draws attention to the very thing that they insist they don't have: conscious and unconscious biases.
It's courageous of Ronan to take a strong stand for her talented co-creator, knowing that soft retaliation is a real thing and that it could color their response to her own performance this awards season.
But what options are they really giving her here? The absence of best director nominations speaks for itself. Little Women was the best, most artfully constructed film featuring the most memorable performances that I saw in 2019.
It is outrageous that its director has been completely passed over in such a high handed way - again.
One way, perhaps the best way, to send a message to the unthinking awards voters who have overlooked this delightful film this awards season will be to attend it, en masse.
So book your tickets now. “Little Women” opens in theaters nationwide on December 25.
The 2020 Golden Globes are set to air on January 5, 2020.