Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

English Lit, Compromised: Sex Mixed with a Subtext

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

English Lit, Compromised: Sex Mixed with a Subtext

Article excerpt


Rating: PG-13, adult themes. Running time: 2:03.

DANIEL DEFOE'S novel "Moll Flanders" is one of the great mixed masterpieces of English literature. Viewed through 18th-century eyes, the story is a masked feminist manifesto, a daring work that told a compelling tale while taking up the cause of a neglected class and gender.

But it is filled - some might say overloaded - with hints of those elements that steam up contemporary dime store novels: rape, abandonment, neglect, illicit love, prostitution. Publishers today would probably send it right to the paperback shelf with a drawing of Fabio on the jacket. Jaclyn Smith or some other Charlie's Angel would play the lead in the inevitable TV-movie version.

And so it is the Danielle Steel take that writer/director Pen Densham chose to make into the new film "Moll Flanders." Moll (played by Robin Wright) is an unfailing heroine who strives and thrives through a neverending series of sex-sational obstacles. The movie is not nearly as trashy as last year's "The Scarlet Letter," but it's just as far away from the dignified, novel-true "Sense and Sensibility."

In the story, Moll's troubles are foretold even before she is born. Her pregnant mother has been sentenced to death for theft, and the execution is postponed only until the child is born. Moll goes through a series of orphanages, convents and foster homes. Each act of generosity she encounters turns out to have a selfish motivation of its own.

Ruled by honor, Moll sees the hypocrisy of each establishment, rejecting them all. Selling her body is easier than selling her soul, so she becomes a prostitute in the house of Mrs. Allworthy (Stockard Channing) and befriends the madam's personal servant Hibble (Morgan Freeman).

Her challenge is to gain control of her own destiny, a nearly impossible ambition for a lower-class whore in those times.

Wright's performance as Moll will almost surely change her career. …

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