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The fourth screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott?s classic 1869 novel, LITTLE WOMEN, is given a realistic and rounded treatment by screenwriter Jo Swicord and Australian director Gillian Armstrong, whose perspective emphasizes a feminist tone. The story chronicles the lives of a mother and four daughters and their daily toils during the Civil War in the absence of their father, a Union army chaplain. Winona Ryder (in an Oscar-nominated performance) is vibrant as Jo, the least conventional of the sisters. Christian Bale captures the ebullience of their neighbor, Laurie, whose company Jo enjoys so much it seems inevitable that they will end up together. Kirsten Dunst (at age 12) gives a fiery performance as the younger Amy, proving even more willful than Jo; Claire Danes brings a mysterious otherworldliness to Beth. LITTLE WOMEN, touchingly rendered, has many subtle moments and an appropriately moving visual sense to accompany the narrative. Susan Sarandon and Gabriel Byrne also star in this well-crafted ...
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