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Winona Ryder
Susan Sarandon
Christian Bale
Gabriel Byrne
Samantha Mathis
Claire Danes.
Gillian Armstrong.
Kirsten Dunst
Robin Swicord.
Running Time
118 minutes

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Little Women
An autobiographically inspired classic of American girlhood.

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The story of the life and loves of the four March sisters in 1860s New England.

Louisa May Alcott's perennial charmer, an autobiographically inspired classic of American girlhood, has been filmed periodically as an actresses showcase, notably George Cukor's superb 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn and the more syrupy 1949 movie with Margaret O'Brien and Elizabeth Taylor.

Pretty and quaint for the 90s but still compelling, it's a character-rich, incident-packed story set around the four March girls: the beauteous Meg (Trini Alvarado); the fragile Beth (Claire Danes); the vain, emotional Amy (played at 12 by the precocious tough-act-to-follow dynamo Dunst, and at 16-plus by the comparatively wan Samantha Mathis); and, particularly, the spirited, life-embracing Jo (Ryder). They may be poor, but they have the advantage of a wise and womanly role model in their mother (Sarandon), prophet of the New Woman.

Opening in New England during the Civil War and spanning the 1860s, it's beautifully mounted to capture the age and the passing seasons, though director Gillian Armstrong never lets the production values overwhelm the gentle sketches of girlish hopes and pastimes tempered by the trials of life.

The team fielded as supporting men is an attractive one too. Eric Stoltz appears as Meg's hard-up but refined suitor; Christian Bale is utterly huggable as the boy next door, Laurie, whose adoration of the colourful March family focuses on Jo; and, as the older, impoverished immigrant Professor Bhaer, a fine Byrne - the first to play this pivotal character with clear attractions besides the intellectual to explain Jo's fervent admiration of him.

Families who flocked to The Secret Garden will be more than satisfied with the values and virtues so entertainingly expounded here. Fellas who dote on Winona should be pleasantly surprised, as well as subject to some moistness around the eyes.

A lovely story and vivacious stars make this warm-hearted saga of home, family and growing up - written, directed and produced by women - a joyful standard bearer in the new wave of "women's pictures".

Reviewed by Angie Errigo

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Average user rating for Little Women
Empire Star Rating

Power To Little Women!

This movie is perfect for all the family, nothing harmful at all to corrput their minds. There is romance, sister love, sadness, laughter, fun and beautiful landscapes. The peformances are strong and wonderful, Winona Rider is perfect as Jo who creates the story at the end and finally finding love with Gabriel Byrne. Christian Bale is handsome and totally frowning-free in this, he screams sexy no matter what! A powerful, moving film with amazing pefomances and a strong script. So much better tha... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 11:32, 25 July 2008 | Report This Post

They don't make them like this anymore...

The 21st century seems far too cynical for films such as 'Little Women', which is a great shame - every film has to rely on some sort of gimmick or catch in order to secure that big opening weekend, rather than allow a beautiful, emotional drama such as this slowly build up word-of-mouth. Okay, so it doesn't really deserve the five stars, but I admit I'm trying to tip the balance of user ratings higher, it certainly was better than 3 stars - a magnificent cast in a truly heart warming and heart ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jura86 at 00:28, 05 July 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Little Women

L: Fenwick I personally dont like Winona Ryder That would be most good. ] good..." Haha. Awesome. ... More

Posted by Monkey Wrench at 10:44, 02 June 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Little Women

*SPOILERS* The Cukor film is unquestionably the finest adaptation, though I have a soft, mushy spot for Mervyn LeRoy's cloying, manipulative 1949 Technicolo(u)r version.  The shameless shifting around of the character's ages to kill off the obscenely talented (and appealing) Margaret O'Brien is a cruel masterstroke and gives the film a real emotional kick.  Further, any film with C. Aubrey Smith, Janet Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor in has got to be worth a look, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rick_7 at 17:45, 01 June 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Little Women

Not the worst version, I personally dont like Winona Ryder but she was good in this. Nothing compares to the 1933 Cukor version though! ... More

Posted by Fenwick at 20:30, 29 May 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Little Women

Cerainly a beautiful film made of a wonderful story. The set and cast are very enjoyable. Despite the radiant Winona Ryder as Jo and Kirsten Dunst as Amy it seems like Claire Danes as Beth is stealing the show. This is a movie to enjoy with all senses and sentiments. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and you will love it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Lorelai at 18:49, 29 May 2006 | Report This Post

Little Women

A beautifully considered and fabulously directed film. Huge production value, wonderful sets and fabulous costumes convincingly bring us into the late 19th century. Great performances also by Susan Sanrandon and a very young Kirsten Dunst but, for me, let down by Winona Rider, who doesn't have the gravitas for this role, and the terrible German accent of Gabriel Byrne. In terms of the script, there are interesting character arcs but it seems to lose a little pace and direction in the second hour... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by qualidad at 13:29, 28 May 2006 | Report This Post

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