This is a lovely and spirited adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, directed by Gillian Armstrong with a screenplay by Robin Swicord.
The best thing about this film is certainly the cast, particularly Winona Ryder as Jo, Susan Sarandon as Marmee and Kirsten Dunst as young Amy. The story is of course very compressed, with both parts of the novel covered in two hours, yet the film doesn’t feel rushed. All the main events are there, and the changes that have been made do not affect the plot. The only noticeable difference is the ending, which is more romantic than in the book. Meg’s domestic trials, such as the jam-making crisis, are not included. I’m sure no one minds this, because to be honest, the chapters about Meg’s married life, while undoubtedly wise, are not interesting. Some of the dialogue is from the book but there is also some additional, modernised speech. The film is even more clearly about Jo than the book is, because there is occasionally some narration from her to link the scenes. Context is also given to the progressive views held by the March family.
I think this film is a fair substitute for reading the book, if you want the condensed version. I don’t see how anyone who’s a fan of the book could really dislike the film, unless they dislike Winona Ryder.
I have recently watched the 2019 adaptation and found it rather charmless in comparison, with a choppy storyline which confused even me, a seasoned reader of the book. If you have to choose one adaptation to watch, I strongly recommend 1994.
Low-resolution poster sourced from Wikipedia.