Repeat Watch: Little Women (1994)
This particular film adaptation of Little Women was released in 1994 and directed by the Australian director Gillian Armstrong. Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, it follows the March family in the years during and after the Civil War. While based on the novel, the script itself was penned by Robin Swicord, who would go on to secure an Academy Award nomination with her screenplay for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The film starred Winona Ryder as Josephine March, one of the four March sisters, and Susan Sarandon as their mother, affectionately called Marmee. The film also features a supporting cast in Christian Bale, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Trini Alvarado, and Samantha Mathis. The film was a financial and critical success in 1994, and while it might now be 23 years old, I believe it is a film worth watching again.
So, what makes it worth the rewatch?
1) A Sensational Heroine
The character of Josephine March is one of my favorite in all of American literature, and Winona Ryder’s portrayal of her reminds me of that. Little Women focuses on all four of the March sisters in different moments, but Josephine, lovingly called Jo, is the true heroine. She is the one who struggles with where she belongs and bucks against the conventions of the day. She is the one who finds writing to be her solace in the midst of many changes. Jo is loving and protective of her family, but she is also exceptionally ambitious and strong-willed. It is her journey in becoming an author and finding her place in the world as it changes that is the lynchpin of the whole film.
2) The Familial Dynamics
I have no idea what it is like to grow up with three sisters, but I have always loved the complicated dynamics that exist in the March family. These four siblings do love each other dearly, but there are always hurdles to be overcome. Amy and her selfishness cause much pain for Jo at different moments. Meg struggles with vanity and finding her worth in others’ opinions. Jo’s fierce independence and unconventional ideas often challenge her sisters, and like Beth, Jo struggles with the family changing as they grow older. They fuss at each other. They argue and sharply disagree with one another, and all of those things make the Marches feel like a real family instead of one from fiction. Also, the wise character of Marmee ties all of these things together to present a family to fall in love with despite all of their faults.
3) Lessons in Abundance
One of the other reasons I think Little Women is a great film to watch over and over again is because of the little tidbits of wisdom presented in the most unassuming of ways. Typically, these statements come from Marmee, who is more concerned with her daughters’ character than all other things. She encourages them to be mindful of those less fortunate, to readily forgive one another, and to find their value and worth outside of others’ opinions. It is her influence and so many of those lessons that makes Little Women an incredibly endearing story.
Little Women is a film that has actually aged well, and I honestly cannot recommend it enough. While some might not care about the source material, this version is the best adaptation of the novel that I have seen. The film is well-written, sweet, and full of strong female characters. It is a story full of people finding their place in the world, which is summed up well by Amy’s statement in the beginning of the film. She tells her sisters, “We’ll all grow up someday, Meg; we might as well know what we want.” This film chronicles this journey, and I hope you will give this family drama another watch during this holiday season.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.