Director: Gillian Armstrong
Cast: Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Christian Bale
Have I Seen it Before: Any joke here would feel off, so I’ll just say no.
Did I Like It: Sure! What’s not to like.
Obviously, any adaptation of Louisa May Alcott will be light on plot. To add plot to the proceedings would be either unsettling or profane. And so, the film must rely on the chemistry between the actresses to fuel the movie that surrounds them.
And they do. They are helped by the fact that their characters are intelligent where they might have been irritating. Plenty of smart, self-possessed women have been inspired by any mixture of the March girls, and those are the kind of people around which I would want to spend time.
That moment near the end where Jo stares with nervous, nearly despairing anticipation at her just-completed first novel, and the bubbling ecstasy when the book comes back printed are feelings both I and many of my friends have surely felt. The movie is filled with these moments of true emotion. It’s a tall order for a movie to function with only these moments to elevate it. In lesser hands, it would have been frightfully dull. Here, it is vibrant. I wish I could make something one day that didn’t need bells and whistles.
The score is jaunty, although the blaring trumpets did leave me wondering which scenes were taking place at Christmas and which were taking place when Kirsten Dunst metamorphosed into Samantha Mathis. The photography is sumptuous without being needlessly showy, and the sets and locations feel like what one would imagine the 19th century to be. Maybe that one element is actually draped in Hollywood fakery, but it displays this with such confidence that the spirit of the March girls comes forth in the film.