8 October 2005 | IridescentTranquility
Something that should be treasured
There are many, many reasons why I love this version of Little Women. The main one - or at least the most immediate - is the way the film looks. I love the soft lighting, the hair and costumes (I was astounded this year when I bought the DVD to hear on the commentary that Winona Ryder's hair was not her own but a wig! I never would have guessed it at all.) The male characters as much as the females, I do love the period costumes, and I'm impressed by the efforts the wardrobe department made to get everything so accurate. The girls were in impoverished circumstances, so the clothes they wear aren't new and look just as though they've been handed down from one sister to another.
There are a few subtle touches in this film that I sometimes find a bit jarring, such as when Marmee is talking with John Brooke in front of Meg and mentions her disagreement with the idea of women wearing restrictive corsets, but that is really the only bit that I don't feel is quite right, and it is there to demonstrate Marmee's liberal attitude.
I love the way the characters interact, although there perhaps isn't enough demonstration of why Laurie and old Mr. Laurence disagree. Jo and Amy act just like real sisters - they fight and provoke each other into arguments and disputes, and generally have a chance to make little digs at the other. Meg is the pretty - but yet also virtuous - one, and clearly the most socially at ease with the upper classes of the time, for instance reminding Jo "Don't shake hands with people. It isn't the thing any more", and in the end - although she has to wait for a period of time that would seem endless today before marrying the man she loves - she opts for a poorer but obviously happier life. It would be very easy to simply say that Beth is not given anything dramatic or interesting to do, but that is the whole point of her character. She watches those around her do great and exciting things, and there is a sense that she herself is happy with that. Susan Sarandon's Marmee clearly holds this family together - the ideal mother figure, she is comforting, incredibly wise (I wonder if anyone has ever met anyone with all the wisdom she seems to have) and always on hand to encourage her girls in their quest to do as they please.
The male characters are also interesting. John Brooke is stable and compassionate and sensible. Laurie (also known as Teddy just occasionally) can be quite an intense figure and I was amazed to find that Christian Bale was only about twenty when this film was released. It is as interesting to see the changes his personality goes through as it is to see those the girls go through. The Professor is a slightly unorthodox character and yet he complements Jo perfectly.
I have watched this film many, many times now (so many, in fact, that I have sometimes been known to say the lines along with the characters as they say them) and I know I will watch it many more times in the future. It might perhaps be a bit of a holiday film but it's certainly worth watching for the feel-good factor it generates.