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The Scarlet Letter
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The Scarlet Letter More at IMDbPro »

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50 out of 68 people found the following review useful:

A travesty of a great novel

1/10
Author: Bruce McMenomy (mcmenomy@halcyon.com) from Bellevue, WA
9 November 2000

Why should anyone find it necessary or even appropriate to hijack one of the landmark works of American literature to replace it with an emotionally slack, thematically vacant, and feebly agenda-driven narrative? Demi Moore's curious Scarlet Letter is almost an hour underway before it even reaches the point where Hawthorne's book begins: whereas Hawthorne's novel is a study of sin, psychological torment, and forgiveness, this film has neither heart nor mind behind its high-gloss presentation: it is apparently a libertine tract in defense of adultery, and an attack, pretentiously lofty but incapable of more than junior-high subtlety of thought, on intolerance.

This can only be pulled off at all by systematically reducing Hawthorne's three-dimensional characters to flat and dull-witted markers, inane in their dialogue, a set of manic and breathy artifacts of a soap-opera sensibility. Accordingly, the characters of Hester Prynne (Moore) and her erstwhile husband Roger Chillingworth (Robert Duvall) emerge as parodies of themselves -- bad acting and bad direction across the board by one bad actress and one good actor. Gary Oldman's Arthur Dimmesdale is astoundingly more or less credible for whole scenes at a time, but he has nothing to play against, and the thematic underpinnings of the story have been knocked out from under him. One can defend this film for its cinematography, for its score, and for any number of other production-based virtues, but when they are all added together, they still don't come close to justifying the film's existence. It is a vulgar and banal demolition of one of America's greatest novels.

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40 out of 57 people found the following review useful:

Not that bad, actually

6/10
Author: Servo-11 from United States
26 November 2001

I was expecting something really awful, but once I got about 15 minutes into the movie, I decided that the only way to enjoy it was to forget that it was "based on" a famous novel and just enjoy the movie for what it was. And I found myself very entertained.

I was impressed with Gary Oldman's performance. It's nice to see him portray someone who isn't a psychotic ham and he did admirably well. Demi Moore suprised me with her acting and apart from a few stilted scenes and discomfort with the dialogue, I think she pulled it off pretty well. I found myself caring about her character and her relationship with Dimmesdale. Perhaps the bathing scene was a little too gratuitous -- c'mon, Demi, do you need to show it all? -- but it was only a few minutes out of 135.

I wish that Pearl could have been given more screen time and character development and the woman who did her voiceover throughout the story left much to be desired. As did Robert Duvall's performance. I didn't much like his acting in this movie at all.

The supporting cast was excellent: Joan Plowright, Edward Hardwicke, and others. The locations and set design were exquisite and the costumes were gorgeous.

Overall, I thought it was a very good way to spend a couple hours. You see some early colonial atmosphere, something which is almost extinct in movies nowadays, and adequate and sometimes inspired acting. Just don't expect to see Hawthorne's novel on the screen. If you want to see the unhappy ending in all its self-mutilating glory, see Lillian Gish's silent version that is sometimes aired on Turner Classic Movies. 6/10

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29 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Just Horrible

1/10
Author: skydvr38 from United States
12 February 2007

If this movie were original it would be only fair to mediocre, but claiming its based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel is insulting. I hear the ads for this movie say its based 'freely and liberally' on the book. Well, this is an insult to the book. Is Demi Moore so illiterrate she comments (see trivia section) that it was okay to change the ending of the book from sad to happy because not many people read the book? Unbelievable. The Scarlett 'A' imagery has been permanently etched in American culture. Take classic literature and try shoving it through the Hollywood formula mill and this movie is the result, a faceless, emotionless and forgettable movie. Try sayign that about the book

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46 out of 75 people found the following review useful:

Shallow lies wrapped in easy to swallow eye candy.

1/10
Author: Charles Steinman from United States
20 April 2007

I just caught this movie on cable. Eager to see a film version of the Hawthorne book I was, Very Disappointed. It is sad that some people will think that this is the real Scarlet Letter. The names of characters are the same as the book but it rapidly departs from the book beyond that -- and for the worse.

You will read commentaries here about what a wonderful film this was with discussions of the beautiful cinematography and great acting. They will also say how it is "loosely adapted" from Hawthornes' book. These are all true statements and the "loose" in loosely should be especially emphasized. I even agree that normally an adaption might be judged on its own merits.

So why did I give this a low score?

Because it is titled "The Scarlet Letter". That is a classical book with some very deep moral messages. The very term "Scarlet Letter" has taken on a special meaning in our language and culture. But, if someone recognizes what Hawthorne was trying to do with his book, they will immediately see this as a rotten-to-the-core script. Consider: the Scarlet Letter, a central theme in the book and holding so much meaning, is just a minor prop in this movie that almost gets in the way.

In Hawthorne's book, the heroine, by her actions through life, turned the Scarlet Letter from meaning "Adulteress" to meaning "Angel" -- it became an emblem of her inner beauty, redeemed through her strength, integrity and good heart. In our own time, people often find themselves "labeled" or identified in some way as bad or as a loser. What a great thing it is to have messages that say "You can rise above that!". This movie completely and totally misses that opportunity. It is one of the great messages that can be given to others in this life, and it is abandoned in this movie.

And what is it traded for? Feminism, rebellion and justifications of immorality. Edgy? Groundbreaking? Incisive? No. So shallow its like cliff diving in a birdbath compared with what Hawthorne brought. In this adaptation, Hester, the heroine claims to not know if what she did was wrong -- or sometimes suggesting it was right. From that high moral ground, Hester almost becomes a feminist warrior or icon leading an insurrection of women against men. That rebellion is ridiculous historically but worse, it completely guts the morality of the book. And the Scarlet Letter? From what I can tell, the movie Hester seems to finally throw it away when she gets her freedom. It has no meaning other than as a talisman for oppression.

That is a different message than the book gave out. But the Movie is still called "The Scarlet Letter". If the screenwriter wanted to send out a different moral message, then he should have retitled the movie. Something like "Hester's Anachronistic and Pointless Rebellion" would have been good. Then it would be truth in advertising.

The actors and technicians did a great job but after reading the script they should have dropped the project. I suppose they needed the money. Beautifully shot, well acted, great score ... it still gets a "1" for being an egregious lie.

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30 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

"Who is to say what is a sin in God's eyes?"

7/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
10 August 2007

For my point of view "The Scarlet Letter" is a good film with great performances… All the actors do a superb job… I was worried that Demi Moore might not have the range to handle the role of Mistress Prynne, but she is excellent... She is strong, passionate, intelligent and damaged… In another place and time she might have been a leader; in this movie she is quite believable as the woman who defends her love at all costs… Gary Oldman looks perfect as Reverend Dimmesdale… He projects force and sexual magnetism along with the guilt for his sin…

The film opens in 1666 when Hester Prynne (Demi Moore) arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony filled with hope that here, at last, in this new World, would come the freedom to worship without fear or persecution… She didn't suspect that beyond the trees there is a savage land of savage passions dark and untamed, and that soon she will face a scornful community in which she will forever be shamed by the scarlet letter…

Mistress Prynne rejected the idea of staying in the congregation until her husband's arrival and looked for a house of her own… She finds a beautiful and frightening place, just as 'Eden must have been so untouched…'

On one Sabbath morning, Hester met Reverend Dimmesdale (Gary Oldman) who helps her when her cart got stuck in the woods… She truly enjoyed, few minutes later, his sermon … It was rare, for her, to find a man so young and fiery who could speak with such force of passion… She was moved by his passion…

Dimmesdale thought that comprehending God was going to be his greatest challenge, but—after he met Hester—he was not the man he seems to be… He lost his power before this seductress beautiful woman… He lived in this township his whole life and his purpose was clear… But now he would risk everything—his life, his ministry, his soul—just to spend a few moments alone with her… After he asked her why that morning in the forest, she didn't say that she is married, he wondered how she were able to see so deeply into his nature…

From that moment, two hearts were there struggling against a love that grew stronger with each passing day…

Hester was courteous enough but her tongue knew no rules… She earned more than a few reprimands in her life for speaking too bluntly… With a frightening strength, she challenged her persecutors and stood up to their hypocrisy, refusing to reveal her lover's identity…

"The Scarlet Letter" compels us to recognize the shadow side of our lives, including this passion that pushes us beyond our limits... The climax also compels us to contemplate about whether there is anything that we would be willing to die for…

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27 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

Absolute dreck.

1/10
Author: lukas-5
1 April 1999

You could try to imagine a worse film, but why bother? As a film and as an adaptation ("freely adapted" is perhaps the greatest understatement since our involvement in Vietnam was labeled a "police action") of a book, it's a complete failure. The acting ranges from the clueless to the atrocious. Gary Oldman is apparently trying to do a Scottish accent, Demi Moore is just plain terrible, and Robert Duvall is nuts. The soft-glow sex scene is risible. There's no tension to the story because Oldman & Moore don't appear to have souls to lose. Instead of a perceptive & morally soaked tale of guilt, sin, and conscience, this is a trite, gushy story about being true to yourself. It's basically a Disney cartoon message, except without as sophisticated a presentation. The script (it's idea of 17th century English is lots of thees & thous) is as bad as everything else, substituting a nick of time rescue happy ending for Hawthorne's. So bad that it's not even enjoyable on a camp level. C-R-A-P.

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29 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

I enjoyed this movie

9/10
Author: Kalpurnia from Panama
7 March 2004

First, I apologies because my English, I'm from Panama. Second, for me, TSL is a very beautiful movie and I know that it is far from the book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, nevertheless, I found nice things there, for instance, the setting was so refreshing to me and the love scenes were very romantic too. In this movie I felt in love to Gary Oldman. I consider that Demi as well as Gary were chemistry. On the other hand, I think that the producer and the whole team portrait the epoch of the pilgrims, the way they lived and thought about morality and religion. Demi was pretty in this character and convincing. For me this was a sad story of love. Although, the screenplay changed at the end, I found that this movie was done to give audience happier than the original book.

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14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

While Not Well Received, This Is Quite Well Done

8/10
Author: Elswet from .: Fiendish Writings in the Dark :.
8 April 2007

I must inform you that that Roland Joffé has utterly bastardized Nathaniel Hawthorne's work with this film, but I find I must review the film as a film, rather than an adaptation due to the strength of the film itself in comparison to the original literary work. As an adaptation, it is a sexed-up, stylized-down piece of detritus. But as a film...

This work stands alone, as it will not bear up under scrutiny when compared against Hawthorne, but aside from that, this "based on" work is a fabulous dramatization of Hawthorne's story. I have to say the performances are marvelous, the story is captivating, and the emotion of the portrayals is wrenching.

I highly enjoyed this bastardization, and rate it at a 7.6/10 from...

the Fiend :.

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17 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

this movie was an embarrassment

1/10
Author: beepink630 from United States
3 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, one of the greatest classic American novels. This Roland Joffé movie would have caused Nathaniel Hawthorne to roll over in his grave. The only similarity the movie had with the original story line was the character names and the title. It was an absolute embarrassment to the intelligence of anyone who actually read the novel, or even those few who went to see it.

It would be impossible to name all the things that were changed from the novel to the movie, but the most drastic were the 80-minute prologue, the entire Indian plot line, and the changed ending. While watching in class, I noted only three major lines taken from the book, two of which were out of context. In a deranged cinematic nightmare, the movie added a nonsensical prologue that Hawthorne never would have included in his wildest dreams. Also, added into the movie was an Indian plot line. This was never even slightly mentioned in the book. The battles and gore were a figment of the imagination of Hollywood, and a horrendous attempt as well. The most offensive part of the movie for me personally, was the changed ending. Not only did it not make any sense, but it undermined the entire point of the story. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne was not supposed to have a happy ending in North Carolina. It was absolutely scandalous of the writers of this movie to allow that to happen. Demi Moore reportedly said it was, "okay with her to make the ending happy because not many people have read the book" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114345/).

Besides creating a bastardization of a classic American novel, Joffé created a generally horrible film. The acting was unrealistic, the sex and violence utterly unnecessary, and the symbolism offensively overdone. The unsubtle, tacky symbolism was an insult to anyone over the age of four. In one pathetically obtuse moment; Hester chases a red bird into the forest; a place of evil doers, and eats the forbidden fruit off of a tree. Clearly the American public did not appreciate this terrible movie either, according to www.boxofficemojo.com, it cost 46 million dollars in production, and earned a surprisingly high 10.3 million dollars; equaling a net loss of over 36 million dollars. The only saving grace of this movie was that there wasn't a sequel, but maybe if there had been they would have eventually found some essence of the original plot.

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18 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Hysterical

1/10
Author: preppy-3 from United States
23 July 2004

VERY stupid adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic. For one thing Demi Moore is totally miscast in the title role. I have nothing against her--she can be good in the right roles...but casting her as a Puritan was just stupid. Gary Oldman looks like he doesn't know what the hell he's doing in this and Robert Duvall sadly embarasses himself.

I (unfortunately) saw it in a theatre back in 1995 (Yup--I PAID to see this movie!). There were a bunch of English school teachers in attendance. They started laughing during the opening credits which says the movie is "based on characters created by Hawthorne" and didn't let up during the entire movie. Actually their comments were more enjoyable than the movie itself. And they REALLY howled at the end which was totally different from the book! Also, at 135 minutes, it's WAY too long.

Really...who thought this was a good idea? Why take a classic book and screw it over completely? Thankfully, this seems to be forgotten--it should stay that way. Don't bother.

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