Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women it has been adapted into film many times and remains a staple for many women. This season is a time when many may return to their favorite movie version, with the Christmas opening and heartwarming family atmosphere remaining the same in each release. But being a competitive culture, fascinated by charts and “best” versions, the question on many people’s minds is also which version of the novel is truly the definitive version. There’s great things in every release, but for many the best official film has become Greta Gerwig’s 2019 Academy Award-nominated arthouse feature.
Little Women it was published in 1868 and adapted into both silent films and the 1933 classic starring Katherine Hepburn. It was done again in Technicolor, with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy and Of psycho Janet Leigh as Meg; was made into many made-for-TV movies, but was definitely remade for Generation X in 1994 with stranger things’ Winona Ryder as Jo and Christian Bale as Laurie. Then, in 2019, Greta Gerwig dramatically reinvented the story with the popular 2019 version, starring Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson and Timothée Chalamet. Each version of the film has its own fan base, with each version reinventing the story for a new generation.
The story of Little Women on film: what has changed
The 1933 film with Katherine Hepburn is in the classic cinema folder. This film is a very Jo-centric installment, with less focus on the supporting cast and a fairly straightforward adaptation of the novel for depression-weary 1930s audiences. However, in some ways this immediacy may turn off some fans, as well as the film’s age as it is of its time. The 1940s Technicolor version is one of the more underrated adaptations as it is a beautiful film to watch.
The 40s Little Women the film is filled with lavish costumes and old-school Hollywood studio production. Its famous and beautiful actors are shot and lit for elegance, and there is an emphasis on brilliance. In general, there is not much talk about the film Little Women you look for, but it sure makes the rewatch fun, with its slightly heightened visuals. The film also mirrored post-war Hollywood’s longing for bliss. Ironically, some of the casting is a little weird. Elizabeth Taylor, for example, doesn’t exactly match Amy March Of Black Widow Florence Pugh yes. As such, the film may not live up to the requirement of being the definitive version.
1994 Little Women the film with Winona Ryder was for many women of Generation X a definitive film. It’s both simple and slightly tweaked for modern audiences. It features many powerful performances, was nominated for many awards when it came out, and adapts the book quite closely, albeit with a slight ’90s update. However, the film is missing something that was exposed with the film’s 2019 release: a comprehensive look at the March sisters in addition to Jo. While the film certainly does Jo’s story justice, it somewhat neglects the supporting cast, effectively leaving Christian Bale’s Laurie and the other March sisters with a rather lackluster portrayal.
Why 2019 movie is the best version of Little Women
The 2019 film stands out as being the one that does justice to all four March sisters. It portrays Amy March in particular as a very three-dimensional character, not at all like the superficial and spoiled sister that most other adaptations never dive into more deeply. Emma Watson as Meg is considerably more three-dimensional and complex than any previous version allowed the older March to be. The film is also more technically complete and innovative as a film than any previous release, with fascinating flashbacks and cuts between different time periods, lighting choices and camera angles that help to visually tell the story more effectively than any film previous one.
Each Little Women the movie brings the strengths to the table. It is a rich novel, loved and full of potential for film adaptation. However, Gerwig’s film version is arguably the most successful as a directorial piece, and the one that best captures the full extent of Alcott’s novel, somehow taking some liberties with the text and adding bits that didn’t part of the book, but which have become important modern feminist statements, such as Amy’s feminist discourse on marrying Laurie or Jo’s eventual entanglement with the life of its real author. The previous film versions are moving and comforting. The 2019 film is loving, but also deeply inspiring, and viewers will think long after seeing it.