Little Women is a 1994 film by the Australian director Gillian Armstrong that brings to the big screen the 1868-69 novel written by Louisa May Alcott (something that had already been done five times since 1918). Lately I’ve been watching enough costume movies (of which you’ll find traces here, here, and here) and it seems to me that unless there is an outstanding director behind the camera (such as Ang Lee, to name one), this kind of movies doesn’t impress me too much.
This version of Little Women features an impressive cast: Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, Gabriel Byrne, John Neville, all very well-known names! Yet, despite the excellent acting department, the movie didn’t stand out for me. Everything is well-made: the sets, the locations, the dresses… and the loyalty to the original Alcott’s novel is admirable. But perhaps this desire to tell everything that is in the novel is actually one weakness of the film, which doesn’t spend much time on any of the myriad of the story’s characters.
For example, Beth’s (Claire Danes) relationship with Laurie’s (Christian Bale) grandfather (John Neville) is only briefly touched upon thanks to the gift of the piano for her birthday, but in the book the relationship is much more profound. On the other hand, the novel is more than 400 pages long and it is impossible to have them all in a two hours movie! For this reason, perhaps I would have preferred something less faithful to the book, but with a better “cinematographic personality”, if you understand my expression.
So, I don’t regret having seen this movie, but I admit that it left me a bit cold, as if I had read a summary of the novel instead of reading the whole novel. It’s a well-done summary, well-edited, well laid out, but a summary nevertheless. Ciao!