Picks and Pans Review: Moll Flanders

updated 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/01/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Robin Wright, Morgan Freeman

As loose adaptations of classics go, this is slightly less puddin'-headed than Demi Moore's The Scarlet Letter. But it's a disgrace, even so. Daniel Defoe's 1722 novel is the memoir of a woman, illegitimate and poor, who grasps at every means to stay afloat. Her curriculum vitae, as the book's subtitle spells it out, includes "Twelve Year a Whore, Five Times a Wife, Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia." Moll narrates these wild, often sordid events with a tone of Christian remorse, earned late in life, that doesn't sound quite genuine.

As directed and scripted by Pen Densham, an Englishman making his first feature film, the movie Moll is a headstrong, gutsy thing (and devoted mom!) who refuses to settle for second best. I half-expected her to have a personal trainer. As Moll, Wright is one-dimensional, which exactly matches the depth of the role. Freeman, as the assistant to (and ex-lover of) the powerful madam who employs Moll, gazes on her misadventures with a sort of serene sorrow. He's the one good thing here. (PG-13)

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