After several previous famous movie versions, notably in 1933 with Katharine Hepburn and 1949 with Elizabeth Taylor, this is an attractive, appealing and beautiful-looking 1994 version of Louisa May Alcott’s famous 1868 book about the domestic life of the March family at Orchard House in Civil War America.
With their father away fighting in the Civil War, sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy grow up with their mother modest circumstances. Despite squabbles and tragedies, their family ties hold even when men friends start to become part of the household
This extraordinarily handsome, self-consciously old-fashioned film gorgeously achieves the Forties Hollywood retro look. Winona Ryder (Jo), Trini Alvarado (Meg), Claire Danes (Beth), Samantha Mathis (older Amy) and Kirsten Dunst (younger Amy) are the Little Women. Christian Bale and Eric Stoltz are the Little Men, Laurie and John Brooke. It’s a great cast of the era.
The youngsters are cute and appealing if slightly on the dullish side with their performances, leaving the old-timers Mary Wickes (Aunt March), Susan Sarandon (as the mother, Marmee), Gabriel Byrne (professor Friedrich Bhaer) and John Neville (Mr Laurence) room to steal a delightful show quite effortlessly.
Director Gillian Armstrong handles it lovingly and with assured style, bringing it in with top production values and a high feel-good factor.
© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Film Review 419 derekwinnert.com