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Little Women
Little Women 1994

Status

Film

Director

Gillian Armstrong

Writers

Louisa May Alcott
Robin Swicord

Composer

Thomas Newman

Cinematographer

Geoffrey Simpson

Distributor

Columbia Pictures

Release Date

21 December, 1994

Running Time

118 minutes

Country of Origin

United States

Original Language

English

Little Women is a film produced in 1994, directed by Gillian Armstrong. It is based on Louisa May Alcott's best-selling series.

The film starred Winona Ryder as Josephine March and Christian Bale as Theodore Laurence.

PlotEdit

The film focuses on the March sisters - beautiful Meg, tempestuous Jo, sweet Beth, and romantic Amy - growing up in Concord, Massachusetts during and after the American Civil War. With their father away fighting in the war, the girls struggle with major and minor problems under the guidance of their strong-willed mother, affectionately called Marmee. As a means of escaping some of their problems, the sisters revel in performing in romantic plays written by Jo in their attic theater.

Living next door to the family is wealthy Mr. Laurence, whose grandson Theodore, nicknamed "Laurie", moves in with him and becomes a close friend of the March family. Mr. Laurence becomes a mentor for Beth, whose exquisite piano-playing reminds him of his deceased daughter, and Meg falls in love with Laurie's tutor John Brooke.

Mr. March is wounded in the war and Marmee is called away to nurse him. While Marmee is away, Beth contracts scarlet fever from a neighbor's infant. Awaiting Marmee's return, Meg and Jo send Amy away to live with their Aunt March. Prior to Beth's illness, Jo had been Aunt March's companion for several years, and while she was unhappy with her position she tolerated it in the hope her aunt one day would take her to Europe. Amy thrives as Aunt March's new companion.

Mr. March returns home just prior to Christmas. Four years pass; Meg and John Brooke marry, and Beth's health is deteriorating steadily. Laurie graduates from college and proposes to Jo and asks her to go to London with him, but realizing she thinks of him more as a big brother than a romantic prospect, she refuses his offer. Jo later deals with the added disappointment that Aunt March has decided to take Amy, who is now sixteen, with her to Europe instead of her. Crushed, Jo departs for New York City to pursue her dream of writing and experiencing life. There she meets Friedrich Bhaer, a German professor who challenges and stimulates her intellectually, introduces her to opera and philosophy, and encourages her to write better stories than the lurid Victorian melodramas she has penned so far.

In Europe, Amy reunites with her old childhood friend Laurie. Finding he has become dissolute and irresponsible, she censures him and refuses to have anything more to do with him until he mends his ways. Laurie decides to go to London to work for his grandfather and make himself worthy of Amy.

Jo is summoned home to see Beth, who finally dies of the lingering effects of the scarlet fever that have plagued her for the past four years. Grieving for her sister, Jo retreats to the comfort of the attic and begins to write her life story. Upon its completion, she sends it to Professor Bhaer. Meanwhile, Meg gives birth to twins Demi and Daisy.

A letter from Amy informs the family Aunt March is too ill to travel, so Amy must remain in Europe with her. In London, Laurie receives a letter from Jo in which she informs him of Beth's death and mentions Amy is in Vevey, unable to come home. Laurie immediately travels to be at Amy's side and the two comfort each other in their grief. The two eventually return to the March home as husband and wife.

Aunt March dies and she leaves Jo her house, which she decides to convert into a school. Professor Bhaer arrives with the printed galley proofs of her manuscript and announces he is departing for the West, where he has found a position as a teacher. When he discovers it was Amy and not Jo who wed Laurie, he proposes marriage and Jo accepts.

CastEdit

ReleaseEdit

The film opened on 1,503 screens in the US and Canada on December 21, 1994. It grossed $5,303,288 and ranked #6 at the box office on its opening weekend and eventually earned $50,083,616. Against its budget of $18 million, the film was a success.

Home MediaEdit

The film had its initial North America video release on VHS on June 20, 1995, followed by its initial digital release on DVD on April 25, 2000. The blu-ray edition release has yet to be announced.

ReceptionEdit

Critical ReceptionEdit

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 3½ stars, calling it "a surprisingly sharp and intelligent telling of Louisa May Alcott's famous story, and not the soft-edged children's movie it might appear." He added, "[It] grew on me. At first, I was grumpy, thinking it was going to be too sweet and devout. Gradually, I saw that Gillian Armstrong . . . was taking it seriously. And then I began to appreciate the ensemble acting, with the five actresses creating the warmth and familiarity of a real family."

Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle called the film "meticulously crafted and warmly acted" and observed it "is one of the rare Hollywood studio films that invites your attention, slowly and elegantly, rather than propelling your interest with effects and easy manipulation."

Little Women has a strong 90% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews with the consensus: "Thanks to a powerhouse lineup of talented actresses, Gillian Armstrong's take on Louisa May Alcott's Little Women proves that a timeless story can succeed no matter how many times it's told."

AccoladesEdit

Wins

  • 1995 BMI Film Music Award (Thomas Newman)
  • 1995 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Best Actress Award (Winona Ryder)
  • 1995 Young Artist Award (Kirsten Dunst)

Nominations

  • 1995 Academy Award for Best Actress (Winona Ryder)
  • 1995 Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Colleen Atwood)
  • 1995 Academy Award for Best Original Score (Thomas Newman)
  • 1995 BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design (Colleen Atwood)
  • 1995 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Robin Swicord) - lost Eric Roth for Forrest Gump

Honours

  • Boston Society of Film Critics Honour (Kirsten Dunst)

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