Gillian Armstrong’s Little Women, the third archiveable version after Cukor’s 1933 version and the 1949 from Mervyn LeRoy, doesn’t feature transcendent direction, but it is an admirable adaptation thanks to a talented cast and a hell of a music score from Thomas Newman
The opening credits are dazzling- I had to check to see if they were from Saul Bass (they are not). They’re from Australian designer Belinda Bennetts, and certainly it looks influenced (or ripped) from Scorsese’s 1993 period drama from revered American literature (from Saul Bass). Still—they are beautiful and elegant and launch the film in the proper trajectory.
I’ll mention it again- a great achievement from Thomas Newman—one hell of a 1994 for him with this and The Shawshank Redemption (he was nominated for both)
A who’s who of young acting talent in 1994. Winona Ryder (also, like the titles, borrowed from The Age of Innocence the year before) was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in 1994, young or old. Kirstin Dunst is here in an early role. Claire Danes (who stands out even in a talented cast –fabulous), Christian Bale, Samantha Mathis (years before they’d be together in American Psycho), and then veteran Susan Sarandon as the anchor.
Serviceable direction—but not on the level of Cukor’s setting of the frame at multiple times in 1933. There is a great scene where Ryder says she’ll never love anyone as much as she loves her sisters. There’s an earnestness there. I also like another choice Armstrong makes when she floats the camera off the bed when Ryder consoles Danes in another scene
Great to see Mary Wickes as Aunt March – 40 years after playing the “busybody” in White Christmas
Winona is a good actress when the material suits—but I think she’s a pretty weak Jo – especially in comparison to 1933’s Katharine Hepburn who jumps off the screen. Hepburn has energy and portrays intelligence in her. Winona can’t do intelligence that borders on genius