Combustible Celluloid
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With: Winona Ryder, Gabriel Byrne, Trini Alvarado, Samantha Mathis, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, Mary Wickes, Susan Sarandon
Written by: Robin Swicord, based on a novel by Louisa May Alcott
Directed by: Gillian Armstrong
MPAA Rating: PG for two uses of mild language
Running Time: 115
Date: 12/25/1994

Little Women (1994)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Above Average Jo

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This Little Women (1994) is the third major, big-screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's 19th century novel, with Winona Ryder taking on a role that was previously played by Katharine Hepburn and June Allyson, though only Ryder received an Oscar nomination for her work. The film tells the story of the trials and tribulations of the March family, led by matriarch Marmee (Susan Sarandon) and populated by four little women: firebrand Jo (Ryder), eldest sister Meg (Trini Alvarado), sweet, sickly Beth (Claire Danes) and the youngest, Amy (played by Kirsten Dunst as a child and Samantha Mathis as a young woman). Their father is at war, and there are fights and makeups, sicknesses and poverty, and Christmases galore. Men (Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, Gabriel Byrne) come in and out of their lives, and Jo becomes the source for that oldest of movie cliches: she's a writer and she's going to write this particular story into a great novel. But, as directed by Australian-born Gillian Armstrong, it's all quite beautiful and vivid and alive. It's smart and sweet and completely affecting, especially the Christmas sequences filled with singing and generosity and goodness, all of which we can certainly use a little of this season.

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