Little Women (1994)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Little Women (1994) from Columbia Pictures
Rated PG. Drama, Period Film, Romance, Family Film

Description (from the film case): With her husband off at war, Marmee (Susan Sarandon) is left alone to raise their four daughters–her “little women.” There is the spirited Jo (Winona Ryder), conservative Meg (Trini Alvarado), fragile Beth (Claire Danes), and romantic Amy (played at different ages by Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis.) As the years pass, the sisters share some of the most cherished and painful memories of self-discovery.

My thoughts (maybe a little spoiler-ish if you’ve not seen one of the movies or read the book): The cast, the costumes, the score–all a triumph. It takes genius for a film less than two hours long to make a viewer feel like she’s really lived all those years with the characters. No, I’ll never be totally reconciled to Laurie’s “switch over” from one little March woman to another (a deliberate and, I think, stubborn choice on Louisa May Alcott’s part), but, strangely, it doesn’t make me love the story less.

One of those rare occasions when I saw a film before reading the book it’s based on, and an even rarer occasion when I love the film and the book equally, despite their differences. And that’s saying something, since Alcott’s novel is one of my all-time favorite reads.

My corresponding reading: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

____________________________

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

classic-books-3 nadine keels

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

LittleWomen.qx5.EGLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

A joy to finally read, after seeing the 1933 and (the best) 1994 versions of the movie several times. I ate it up, cover to cover. I’m glad the novel gives more about the sisters’ lives after their marriages than either of the movies do, and while the families are clearly happy, Alcott does not tie up the conclusion with a perfect “not-a-care-in-the-world-and-happily-ever-after” bow. So disappointing to confirm how much the Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel film copied directly from Little Women, as far as Jo/Laurie and Anne/Gilbert are concerned, but that’s not Little Women’s fault, and though I may never be fully reconciled to the way Laurie “switches over” to Amy, I’m still fond of the story in spite of it.

Jo’s poem to Beth, toward the end, is one of the most moving pieces of the novel, as are Beth’s words to Jo, at the sea: “Jo dear, I’m glad you know it. I’ve tried to tell you, but I couldn’t.” Beth, in all of her virtue, is still portrayed as human: a dying, nineteen-year-old girl wondering if her short life has truly amounted to anything. One of my main questions going in was whether or not Alcott would make Beth a flawless, otherworldly angel, and I’m pleased that Alcott doesn’t.

________________________

Indeed, the 1994 film version by Columbia Pictures with Winona Ryder in her Oscar-nominated role as Jo (and a fantastic musical score by Thomas Newman) is the best film version of Little Women, but the 1933 release with Katharine Hepburn has its own “old movie” charm.