Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA/Canada, 1994. Columbia Pictures, DiNovi Pictures. Screenplay by Robin Swicord, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. Cinematography by Geoffrey Simpson. Produced by Denise Di Novi. Music by Thomas Newman. Production Design by Jan Roelfs. Costume Design by Colleen Atwood. Film Editing by Nicholas Beauman.
There’s a lot of love poured in to every shot of this latest of many adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s children’s classic, revamped for the nineties with an infusion of feminist sentiment. Essentially the story of four young ladies growing up under impoverished circumstances during Civil War-era Boston, it focuses on the adventures of the headstrong Jo March (a delightful Winona Ryder) and her struggles to find a place for herself in a world that expects her to do little else than marry her next-door neighbour and best friend (Christian Bale). Her passions drive her towards writing and other artistic endeavours, ambitions that often embarrass her more society-conscious sisters. Trini Alvarado is elegant as Meg, the oldest sister with her sights set on making a good marriage (and does so with tutor Eric Stoltz), while both Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis play Amy (at different ages), whose sights are concentrated on making a wealthy marriage. Claire Danes gives a touching portrayal of the sickly Beth, who unknowingly keeps the loving heart of the March family beating with her kindness and good nature. Watching over them all is the indomitable force of Susan Sarandon as their mother, a woman who wants her daughters to be happy with themselves without constantly seeking acceptance from others. The cast as a whole is marvelous but the film entirely belongs to Ryder, her characters’ more delicate moments always pulled off with wonderful poignancy. Beautifully directed by Gillian Armstrong, featuring excellent production design and beautiful costumes by Colleen Atwood, most of which were made from actual fabrics preserved since the late 19th century and resewn into the costumes you see in the film.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Actress (Winona Ryder); Best Costume Design; Best Original Score