With director Gillian Armstrong and star Susan Sarandon involved, it was a safe bet that the 1994 film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women would highlight the feminist undertones in a story about four daughters growing up under the nurturing eye of their Marmee. Rather than lard on the sentiment or the message, however, Armstrong's dramatic restraint makes the tale of sisterhood, love, and family all the more affecting. Establishing the March sisters' personalities through their quotidian interactions with one another and the handsome men in their lives, Armstrong never loses sight of Marmee's challenge to her girls to develop their intellects as well as their beauty, even as 19th century convention dictated that they yearn for the men of their dreams. Anchored by Winona Ryder's performance as aspiring writer Jo, the uniformly strong ensemble cast breathes life into the March family's emotional highs and lows; the carefully crafted period settings and costumes lend an appropriately appealing atmosphere. Greeted with rave reviews, Little Women became a Christmas-season success and went on to earn Oscar nominations for Best Score and Best Costumes and for Ryder as Best Actress.
by Lucia Bozzola review