One of Hollywood's original "chick flicks," this faithful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Civil War-era novel focuses almost exclusively on the ambitions, desires, and emotions of the titular four sisters. The expensive and attractive production literally embodies that most manipulative of cinematic clichés, "I laughed, I cried." Little Women's first half, focused on the sisters' effervescent and fun-loving youth, gradually gives way to a melancholy, downbeat second half, in which we witness confusion, disappointment, and death. The film's willingness to concentrate almost exclusively on these four sisters, who vary from confident to reticent, was an important step forward in the cinematic treatment of women. How the "little women" hold up as they undergo their trials and tribulations is also essential, as they survive and thrive without (and occasionally despite) men, who appear only in supporting roles, a tidy inversion of Hollywood tradition. Little Women's star-making performance was that of Katherine Hepburn, whose tomboyish spunk is wonderfully endearing in the role of Jo, the embryonic writer. However, the supporting work of Joan Bennett, Jean Parker, and Frances Dee is also key to the film's enduring appeal. Nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for George Cukor, Little Women won best adapted screenplay for Victor Heerman and Sarah Y. Mason.
by Dan Jardine review