Lavish period piece is strictly by-the-numbers. Robin Wright plays the title
character in this drama which only slightly resembles its source material, a novel
by Daniel Defoe. Born and orphaned into poverty, and posessing a feisty mind,
Moll doesn't fit in well into 18th century society. As a child, she is abused by
the priests at her orphanage, and her life doesn't get any better from there...
She eventually passes into the house of a wealthy madame, Mrs. Allworthy (Stockard Channing),
and under the watchful gaze of her servant, Hibble (Morgan Freeman). Her life
seems to go in a downward spiral throughout the film, as she is subjected to
one degrading experience after another, only to triumph in her stubbornness to survive.
Aside from the extravagant costumes, nice scenery, and Freeman's standardly good performance,
there's not much to recommend for Moll Flanders. Most of the plot twists are loudly
foreshadowed, and the film on a whole seems to be based on the following cycle:
Moll struggles in adversity--Moll triumphs over adversity--repeat. Wright does an
adequate job, but fails to capture the essence of the time, reacting, instead, as if a
1990's woman were placed into the squalor of the 18th century. A period piece is
in trouble when the period details overshadow the story at large, as is the case with
Moll Flanders...but at least those details are nice to look at.
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