Saturday, November 13, 2010

Winona Ryder, in Little Women
approximately 70 minutes and 25 seconds
62.2% of the film

The film

The March sisters live and grow in post-Civil War America. Based on the well known novel.
You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

It’s a film that starts well, and it had an enjoyable youthful feeling to it. But then it suddenly turns into boring, clich├ęd, bad-acting stuff. Kirsten was a darling, the original score is memorable, but the film is overall disappointing.

Winona Ryder as Josephine March
I think Winona was about 22 years old when they actually shot this film. That is a young age for a serious leading actress, but Winona definitely was used to making movies. The acting experience seemed to be there, the star power was there, but still something seemed off to me. What stops the performance from being great? Maybe it’s lacking the effort and the life experience that Winona should’ve put in the real dramatic scenes.

Winona plays Jo March, a young girl growing up during the Civil War, in a poor but honest family. She is very creative, free spirited, full of life and ambitious, and very attached to her darling 3 sisters. It’s a role that Katherine Hepburn did quite successfully (from what I understand) 60 years before and it’s based on a well-known novel. There are mainly two sides to the character, showing up as the film’s action progresses: the childish playful Jo and the girl about to become a woman and her writing ambition.

The first impression as the film started was that the casting seemed just right. Winona is very charismatic and this probably is her most important achievement in the role. I cannot imagine anyone hating her and this performance, because she is always smiling, she’s so full of life yet so innocent and she does light the screen. Winona and Kirsten are the only ones who make the experience fun, playful, enjoyable to watch.

Because of all of this, her performance works well in the first hour. It’s not a demanding role: mostly she just has to use that charisma, but she made is believable for me. Those shows she puts on with her sisters: the performance requires a lack of vanity to make the scenes believable otherwise it will all look embarrassing. But luckily, Winona’s acting is so natural, grounded, she makes it look easy, yet always keeping that girly enthusiastic quality to it.

My problem with the performance comes from a different aspect of the role. Oddly enough, Winona’s acting ends up a bit amateurish in the few really dramatic moments. Truth is: I didn’t quite approve of her onscreen crying, which sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. And I don’t mean those scenes when Jo is just pretending to be suffering, I mean the ones where tears and some real dramatic empathy would’ve helped, like in the scene after the death of a certain character.

But talking of such scenes, as I said: the role is not demanding to start with. Just like Sandra in The Blind Side, her own personal charisma and adorable look do 80% of task required. Winona delivers a good lively performance, but the screenplay doesn’t offer enough of a stretch and when it does present a dramatic scene, Winona is just not up for it or not acting emotionally enough. However, it’s easy to see how those light, fun, innocent, girly aspects of the character are really nailed. It’s a from me, and I’ve enjoyed it more than it seems. The performance, not the film.

PS: the main photo of my post, that’s when the crying does work. :) and it’s wonderful. To bad, it’s always like that in those specific tense moments.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Nice writeup. There seems to me a distinct lack of chemistry among the girls which prevents Winona's general affability from completing taking off. She does work better in the lighter moments than the softer ones but she always seems just a little too tame for Jo, which is of course me projecting my expectations to the screen version. But I say the grading is good and fair.

joe burns said...

I disagree- Maybe it's my affection for the movie, but I personally felt that she did a great job. I'd give her a four, or maybe a 4,5/5.

Malcolm said...

Maybe I'd really need to see the movie soon!

I'm already excited about Nell!

Alex in Movieland said...

well, Joe, that's how I saw it :) I think I also tend to be less generous, especially in the past year... :)

a 4 would've meant putting her on the same place with Gloria Swanson, and that's not gonna happen :)

Elgart said...

Winona Ryder is absolutely amazing actress. The 1992 Dracula is one of my favorite film of her.