Little Women (1994) and Little Women (2019)
Two strong contenders for the title of Best Modern Film Adaptation of Little Women. Two adaptations with magnificent ensembles, anchored by a variety of young and extremely talented actors. Really made me think about Shaq…yes, Shaquille O’Neal…and Giannis Antetokounmpo too.
Shaq and Giannis are two of the three most freakish NBA athletes over the past 25 years (the other one being LeBron). Shaq might have been the most unstoppable physical force I have ever seen play in the NBA, but I do feel a slight déjà vu when watching Giannis. Bill Simmons has often commented that Giannis is the modern day version of Shaq, and that may be spot on. Little Women (2019) is the Giannis to Little Women (1994)’s Shaq. And they both had outsized talent at a young age — something which I would say puts them into the same conversation as the two Jo Marches: Winona Ryder and Saoirse Ronan.
Little Women (2019)
One of my favourite movies of 2019. The screenplay from Greta Gerwig was absolutely brilliant. The introduction of the overlapping dialogue and overlapping timelines was agitative at first, but the two dramatic Beth scenes were wonderfully executed. There was a genuine payoff from that gamble. I read the novel when I was kid, but I didn’t quite remember all the finer details before seeing this movie. But the screenplay was so sharp that I felt up to speed right from the start. This is how you do excellent adaptations of intellectual property in 2021 Hollywood.
Little Women (1994)
I saw this adaptation AFTER seeing the 2019 version, but nonetheless, I found this version compelling for so many different reasons. I give the edge in set design to 1994. The March house of 1994 simply stands out more vibrantly.
Even though this version used a traditional approach to the narrative, it never dragged. There was still pace even without the nonlinearity. I think it was even an advantage in the handling of the Amy/Laurie story arc. The distance between Laurie’s proposal to Jo at the midpoint and the end really allowed the Amy/Laurie relationship to breathe. Their marriage announcement felt less rushed — an easier bittersweet pill to swallow. The relationship between Jo and Friedrich Bhaer was also more organic in this version (even with the cringey age disparity). But I did miss the dynamic between Beth and the elder Mr. Laurence in the 2019 version.
Best piece of dialogue from either movie
“Listen to the child.” (1994)
Kirsten Dunst kicked some serious ass as young Amy. I know Winona Ryder was Oscar nominated for her performance, but c’mon!
Best scene from either movie
The dance scene between Jo and Laurie in the 2019 version. Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet had better chemistry (and choreography)!