Little Women (1994) / Drama-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG for mild language
Running Time: 115 min.
Cast: Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, Claire Danes, Gabriel Byrne, Kirsten Dunst, Eric Stoltz
Director: Gillian Armstrong
Screenplay: Robin Swicord (based on the book by Louisa May Alcott)
Review published January 6, 2002
I've never read Louisa May Alcott's classic book nor have I seen any of the multitudinous other film adaptations of it so I can't honestly say if the film does the book justice or how it compares in relation to previous outings. However, I always like to judge a film on its own merits as much as I can and can state that Gillian Armstrong's (Oscar and Lucinda, Charlotte Gray) version is quality family entertainment that should please most who happen to view it. Little Women is strengthened greatly by a strong cast of good young actors that are very strong and memorable in their respective roles.
Winona Ryder (Reality Bites, The Age of Innocence) is the main star among many as Jo March, one of four sisters growing up during the mid-19th Century during the Civil War, all hopeful for the safe return of their father who is fighting in the Civil War. They are raised solely by their mother and despite their meager lifestyle, they all have fun making their own clothing and costumes and playing various roles in their own plays. Along the way they enjoy the good times and bad, and share in tragedies that bring them closer together. The film also showcases their potential love interests.
In addition to the winning cast, Little Women also benefits from terrific cinematography, nice costume work, and very capable direction from Gillian Armstrong. This is a period piece that effectively captures the life and times of those who grew up during the times without falling into stuffy melodrama and overly flowery dialogue. While the film doesn't have an obvious plot or a storyline that develops to completion, as a slice of life for four young women, it's immensely interesting to watch them all come of age and mature as the film progresses.
Little Women is recommended for those who love the book, the cast, period pieces, and especially for women. Even others who think they may not relate to the film might want to give the film a shot, as you might be surprised how much you end up enjoying it. Nominated for three Oscars, including a Best Actress nomination for Winona Ryder, the terrific score by Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, Scent of a Woman) and the realistic costume designs by Colleen Atwood (The Silence of the Lambs, Edward Scissorhands), and deservedly so.
©2002 Vince Leo