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Little Women still enjoyable for a 1990s audience

Little Women

Directed by Gillian Armstrong.

Written by Robin Swicord; based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott.

Starring Winona Ryder, Trini Alvarado, Clare Danes, Samantha Mathis, Christian Bale, and Susan Sarandon.

Sony Harvard Square.

By Evelyn Kao
Staff Reporter

For those of you not familiar with Louisa May Alcott's classic, Little Women tells the story of the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Little Women is about their struggles against poverty, inequality, and sickness.

The main character is Jo March (played by Winona Ryder), a tomboy, an educator, and an aspiring writer. She is the leader of the sisters, guiding them in their various entertainments and adventures. The eldest is Meg (Trini Alvarado); more serious than Jo, she is concerned with the prospect of marriage. Beth (Clare Danes) is the quiet, caring one. And Amy (played by Kirstin Dunst and Samantha Mathis) is the youngest, most worldly of the sisters.

Taking place in the 19th century, theirs is a picturesque world - a world of candlelight, snow, and horse-drawn carriages. The audience follows the sisters through the years. We watch as they grow older and go in different directions as they pursue their interests. And we also see that despite the physical distance between them, the sisters remain close.

Little Women is a feminine movie. The family has a strong matronly figure found in Marmee, portrayed superbly by Susan Sarandon. The father has an insignificant role as do most male characters in this film. One of the exceptions is the Marches' wealthy next door neighbor, Lorrie (Christian Bale). The Marches save him from the coldness and boredom of his home and surround him with their warmth and love. The story focuses on feeling, family, and strength. It is a subtle film - it does not shout out any moral lessons; yet it reminds us that simple ideas and values work.

Much attention has been paid toward Winona Ryder's Jo. Most critics praise her performance as they do the movie. As an adaptation of the book, the movie is pretty accurate. However, no movie portrayal can quite match a reader's imagination, and it is for this reason that some may find Little Women to be a bit disappointing.

Director Gillian Armstrong should be applauded for her ability to make 19th century morals viewable, enjoyable, and lucrative with a 1990's audience. She does not have to compromise on the mood or message of the book to make it more understandable to the present crowd. That is part of the reason why Little Women is a good film.

Viewers who want blood, skin, or farce will probably not enjoy this film, but I imagine that they will probably not want to see something called, Little Women.