Thursday, February 15, 2007

LITTLE WOMEN (Columbia 1994) Sony Home Entertainment

Director, Gillian Anderson rekindles the romantic ideals of the Victorian age in her brilliant retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women (1994). Unlike the previous two versions that centralized the film’s plot on the character of Jo March as their heroine – at the melodramatic expense of exploring all other character development, Anderson’s version treats the film as an ensemble piece.

The story begins with Jo’s (Wynona Ryder) ambitions to be a writer. Her sisters, Amy (Kristin Dunst), Beth (Claire Danes) and Meg (Trini Alvarado) embrace Jo’s talents by re-enacting her clichéd plays in their upstairs attic. But more recently, Jo’s attentions have been split between art and more than a passing interest in the boy next door, Theodore Lawrence (Christian Bale). Fighting that interest becomes a sticking point for ‘Laurie’ who eventually gives up on Jo and moves to her sister, Amy (played as an adult by Samantha Mathis).

The plot moves effortlessly through the well trod romanticized fodder of its’ two predecessors, yet nothing that director Anderson does seems to ever bear reference or comparison to the other two films. It’s as though we, as an audience, are seeing the premise put forth and made palpably real for the very first time.

To be sure Jo is still central to the plot, but she is now surrounded by a loving family. All the actresses; Kristin Dunst; Claire Danes; Trini Alvarado; Susan Sarandon give standout performances. Each character is given their moment to shine in a production that is beautiful and brimming with poignancies of old world charm. This Little Women delivers the solid smile and good cry that audiences of melodrama desperately crave but seldom get from their film-going experience.

Sony Home Entertainment has two separate editions of Little Women currently available. The first was produced during the infancy of DVD in 1997; the latter several years later as a collector’s edition. Regardless of the version you purchase, these are reference quality discs with bold, hi-definition digital transfers that perfectly capture all the resolution standard DVD is able to provide.

Colors are rich, vibrant, bold and very natural looking. Contrast levels are superb. Even in the darkest scenes, fine details are fully realized. Blacks are deep and velvety. Whites are bright and pristine. There are no age related or digital artifacts to complain about. The standard edition from 1997 contains almost twice as many chapter stops as the reissue. But the reissue has several informative featurettes, a theatrical trailer and an isolated musical score as its extras. Highly recommended!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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