Scarlet Letter, The
Reviewed by Ned Daigle
Rating: 9.5 Beans
hen it comes to what film is the worst celluloid travesty of a literary classic, Roland Joffe's, er make that Demi Moore's "The Scarlet Letter", is the hands down champ. This is not so much an "updated interpretation" as complete reconstructive surgery.
The blame can't all be heaped on Joffe's shoulders. Joffe is an otherwise quality director ("The Killing Fields", "The Mission") but even the skills of Scorsese himself couldn't save what is an ultimate failure on the screenplay level.
Yes, Demi Moore is completely miscast as Hester Prynne, the classic heroine from Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, who upon commiting adultery with the Reverend Dimmesdale (Gary Oldman) is saddled with an illegitimate daughter and a giant red "A" on her boddice.
The novel is essentially a tale of man's confrontation with sin and it's repercussions. This film is little more than a skin flick with moodier lighting.
Oh yes, the usually great Robert Duvall is Chillingworth, Hester's long absent husband, who returns to torture the hot and horny couple for revenge.
The characters are all the same, but everything else is wrong. There are so many jaw-droppingly horrible moments, one hardly knows where to start. But here a few contenders: (1) Hester spies Dimmesdale swimming in the nude, and is obviously aroused, later, she engages in a little "self-gratification" after her slave girl(!) undresses her for a bath; (2) The act of adultery itself takes place in a barn on a pile of beans while the slave girl watches, afterwards the girl gratifies herself with a candle in the bathtub; (3) Chillingworth's dissapearance is explained that he has been living with an Indian tribe, this is shown with Duvall wearing a dead deer carcass on his head and dancing around a bonfire screaming out intermittent war whoops.
Get the picture? Oh and it gets worse. Throughout the film, a red canary flies around signalling to all that symbolism is afoot. And even a an Indian attack and witchhunt trial are thrown in for good measure.
Even these hilariously bad moments can't redeem it on an entertainment level, it's just so loooooong and boooooooooring.
Oh, did I mention they changed the book's ending? Which renders the reason for "The Scarlet Letter's" existence utterly unexplainable.
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