Run time: 123 mins
In Theaters: Friday 14th June 1996
Distributed by: MGM Home Entertainment
Production compaines: Trilogy Entertainment Group, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Spelling Films
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 12
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: Pen Densham
Screenwriter: Pen Densham
Starring: Robin Wright as Moll Flanders, Morgan Freeman as Hibble, Stockard Channing as Mrs. Allworthy, John Lynch as Fielding, Brenda Fricker as madame Mazzawatty, Geraldine James as Edna, Jim Sheridan as le prêtre, Aisling Corcoran as Flora
The last one is the most appropriate for this: a picture which wastes a lot of raw acting talent and pretty photography on a boring, groaning-in-your-seat story which hinges on every cliché in the book.
Moll Flanders is the most recent entry in the disturbing trend of pictures made out of "classic" novels (in this case, Daniel Defoe's). Regular readers pretty much know my opinion of how well this has been done lately, but I'll say it again: these movies haven't been too good.
Robin Wright plays the titular character, a tempestuous woman born to a death row-incarcerated mother in 18th century London. She goes through the wringer during the next two hours, going from nun to maid to whore to respectable artist's wife to a voyage for the New World... none of which is very interesting. Along the way, she is befriended by Hibble (Morgan Freeman, a character wholly invented for the film), a servant to the wicked Lady Blystone (Stockard Channing), mistress of the bordello where Moll plies her whoredom, and the two become friends.
The story is told in flashback -- with Hibble finding Moll's long-lost daughter, Flora (Aisling Corcoran), and telling her the story of her mother. As it turns out, Flora is a truly snotty little kid, and we quickly find out that her mother is a snotty big kid. Neither one carries too much appeal as someone for us to look up to, and I was hoping against hope that every time Flora would try to run away from Hibble, she'd escape. She didn't.
The big problem in Moll Flanders, as mentioned earlier, is its very poor and outdated story line. Maybe the line "I'd had sex many times but never made love" was new 150 years ago... but not any more. Literally every scene is predictable. Seriously. We've seen this all before in a hundred movies -- mostly the kind that play on cable, late-nights. Yawn.
Even worse: the humor in the film plays to the lowest common denominator, alternating between sex jokes and genitalia jokes. Not exactly for the highbrow. And there are lots of scenes with Moll acting drunk, inexplicably insane, or both. That's acting? If I wanted to see that, I could go back to college.
The two saving graces: very lovely cinematography and a clever ending. Enough? Hardly.
Hopefully I've made my point. And judging from the audience's reaction, I wasn't the only one with this opinion. Best comment I heard after the film: "It was better than Spy Hard." I couldn't agree more.
In this scene, Moll watches a much better movie.