Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women” in 1868 while living in Massachusetts. This coming-of-age novel follows four sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy — and is considered a semi-autobiographical work. While there are multiple film adaptions of the book, the 1994 and 2019 versions are the two best-known films.
But which is better?
Review of ‘Little Women’ 1994
Gillian Armstrong directed the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst, which featured masterful storytelling. Made in the 1990s, this film transported the viewer back to the snowy streets of Massachusetts.
This adaption includes two actresses playing the role of Amy March. Kirsten Dunst played the younger version of Amy, while Samantha Mathis played the older version. This change of actresses within the film is very noticeable. While I found the narrative of the 1994 “Little Women” more inviting and more cohesive, the 2019 “Little Women” had one star for Amy: Florence Pugh.
The slight graininess that is expected from ’90s films works to the advantage of the 1994 film. The iconic “Little Women” scenes, such as the Christmas celebration or the girls reading their father’s letter with their mother or Beth playing piano while they gather around her singing, seem cozier because of the dim lighting and the graininess.
Review of ‘Little Women’ 2019
Greta Gerwig directed the 2019 version of “Little Women.” Like Movie Babble observed, Gerwig’s take on Amy March is dramatically different. While younger Amy in the 1994 “Little Women” comes across as a brat, Pugh played an Amy who is more concerned about following in the footsteps of her sisters.
While Pugh portrayed this adaption of Amy excellently, I did not like the departure from the book in this way. The way that the film portrays the narrative departs from the book as well. It is a nonlinear narrative plot line and while I thought it was executed well, I found myself longing for a chronological narrative where we as the audience grow up with the girls like Alcott accomplishes in her novel.
Which one is better?
The colors in this adaption are brighter and bolder than the 1994 version. I do not think that Gerwig captured the coziness that defines “Little Women.” Even though the film featured one of my favorite actress (Emma Watson), it did not compare to the classic 1994 version. What it came down to most for me was the lighting and the set. For example, in the scene titled “I Want to Be Loved,” the attic seems too big — bigger than the 1994 version, because that attic had more filled-in space.
In short, I liked the 1994 version of the film better because the narrative was more cohesive, it captured the elements of coziness and coming-of-age themes present in the novel better than the 2019 version and because the setting seemed truer to the novel.
The verdict is in! In this case, the original 1994 “Little Women” is better.