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Loose Adaptation of the Book Works its Own Magic
weirdophreak1715 March 2005
This film, though nothing like the Daniel Defoe novel, was remarkably good. The tale begins with Flora, an orphan removed from her home in a convent in Europe, who is told that she is being taken to the Americas to become the ward of one Mrs. Allworthy, who is credited to have been the woman her mother served. Mrs. Allworthy's manservant and confidant, Hibble, is the one who is to both bear her to his employer, and also to read to Flora the diary of her mother, Moll Flanders, to explain her life to her.

Robin Wright shines as the lost and ever soul-searching innocent Moll Flanders, who despite making many wrong choices in life seems to find her way to kind places again and again. Her unconditionally loving future husband, credited "The Artist" on screen but listed as John Fielding on this site, is played by John Lynch. Stockard Channing is Mrs. Allworthy, who we come to discover is the owner of a Bordello and is a manipulative woman who can sway any man into her power. Lastly, Morgan Freeman plays the part of gentle and world-wisened Hibble, and I think this is one of his best roles, as he interacts so swimmingly with Robin on camera.

The movie is rated PG-13 for sexual situations, nudity and some violence. Despite the subject matter, the film charms the soul. I recommend lovers of Gothic literature to read it, and for people who love the book to give this story a chance as a separate entity.
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underrated film
jqb123-120 June 2005
Morgan Freeman uses his immense talent to give varied facets to Mr. Hibble, Stockard Channing is deliciously evil as Mrs. Allworthy, and Robin Wright Penn shines like a diamond in the role of Moll Flanders. Even the child playing Flora does a charming job with her limited part. Some viewers complained that the film was slow moving, but i felt the transitions from "modern day" to "flashbacks" from the memoir written by the title character kept things moving along quite nicely. Having not read Defoe's book, I cannot compare it to this version, but members here seem about equally divided between hating the movie for not being true to the book, and feeling that the changes made are an improvement on the original. Personally, I'd recommend this movie highly to anyone who has time to watch it.
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Emotionally driven
roybarb27 December 2003
A tale of one woman's journey through her own life of desperation and consequence. This film follows the heroine, Moll Flanders, through her diary left to her daughter via its caretaker Hibble played masterfully by Morgan Freeman. A true testament to the indomitable spirit of mankind, or in this case womankind. I highly recommend this film.
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Moll who?
drrap22 September 2008
The plot of this film has nearly nothing whatsoever to do with Daniel Defoe's novel; in place of Defoe's brilliant and compelling heroine it substitutes bushels full of ersatz-18th century drivel, pretentious neo-Irish music, and annoying children. Nunneries in England? An unexplained Afro-British man sent on a mission to read a book to an annoying child across the sea? A charitable organization which adopts adult women only if they are virgins? I am certain that if one made a film of "A Christmas Carol" with no Scrooge, no Tiny Tim, and Bob Cratchit as an alcoholic schoolmaster with an illegitimate one-legged daughter living in Sweden, viewers would complain that the story had gone missing -- why not here? It's a shame, as Morgan Freeman gives a memorable performance even in a role which seems dislocated from history, novelistic and actual.
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A rather undelectable 18th century stew
Costu-28 November 1999
The performances in this film are, for the most part, worthwhile. Robin Wright is radiant, Morgan Freeman solid, and Stockard Channing makes the most of her role, to the point that I think it was worthy of an Oscar nomination. (Why is this woman's craftsmanship so underrated? I'd like to know...) And I liked John Lynch as the artist. But there are some really dull stretches here that might have been helped with more secure, tighter writing. This was a colorful era -- and the costumes and settings in the film seem appropriate -- but the story is so bland that I found myself nodding off from time to time. -- The biggest puzzle to me is : Why call it "Moll Flanders" after Daniel Defoe's book/heroine, when the story is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE the book? Overall, a disappointment. There's some good meat in this stew, but, in the end, it makes for only so-so movie-watching...
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Talk about taking liberties with the story
eightie18 June 2007
The main problem with this film is that it calls itself "Moll Flanders." It has very little to do with the Defoe novel. Moll Flanders, who in the novel appears as a resourceful, intelligent, fun-loving and talented woman is transformed here into a helpless fallen angel who has little control over her own fate. There is no mention in this film of her many husbands (as well as the clever ways she obtained them), her thieving career, her other children, her mother and brother, and generally everything else in the novel that was entertaining and meaningful. Robin Wright Penn is boring and anemic in a role that demands the opposite. Sentimental Hollywood has never before ruined a good story with such skill. If you want to get the full flavor of this great novel, do yourself a favor and watch instead the British adaptation with Alex Kingston, also from 1996.
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Outstanding in every way
knowing-all-answers20 March 2001
This movie is very special. Congratulation to everyone who was involved ! Most of the credit is due to Robin Wright in the title role of Moll Flanders. She gives one of the most memorable performances in movie history. So please sit back and enjoy the godsend on-screen-presence of Miss Robin Wright. Her talent and beauty is a gift to the movies and should be honored with more than just the Golden Satellite Award nomination she received for playing this challenging and complex part with such a brilliance. The movie owes its authenticity to her excellent acting abilities.

The part of Hibble is played by the gorgeous Morgan Freeman. He is not only very believable but also very strong and equivalent to the remarkable Wright.

To give you an impression of the richness and elegance this film contains, I will describe some of the most poignant moments of this masterpiece:

-When Morgan Freeman reads the memories of Moll to her daughter, his voice suddenly changes into Robin Wright telling her story from her birth to running away from the convent. When she escapes this prison you live to see one of the most illustrious scenes in movie history crowning in her fountain-bathing (movie cover).

-Another very special moment is when the artist (John Lynch in a wonderful performance) asks Moll what she expects from life and she answers : "Nothing any more". When she tells him that, Robin Wright is both breathtaking and lovely. Expressing a feeling was never more credible before.

-Robin Wright also copes superbly with whe difficult situation when Morgan Freeman tells her that he didn't find her baby. This is a very emotional and toughing scene.

-the thunder-storm-sequence is full of tension and very realistic

-Robin Wright dancing in front of her adoptive family is a gift from director Pen Densham to his viewers. His ability of both giving Robin Wright enough room to develop her character and never losing track of his own ideas is unique. Would have deserved at least a best director nomination...

-One of Robin Wright's most enjoyable scenes is the one where she refuses a piece of jewellery to confirm her love for John Lynch. "All my life I dreamed about this moment...but no one can separate me from this man, unless he wants me to leave him. I love him enough to do that. But you can't buy me..." This is one magical moment in movie history.

-When Stockard Channing's Mrs. Allworthy (she is unique, too) and Robin Wright's Moll Flanders meet for the first time, you are part of a magic moment, too. It's both funny and heart rending to see Moll netted by the villain.

Although the movie is a false interpretation of Daniel Dafoe's classic book, it tells a timeless and classic story about one woman's unbreakable spirit (that's what the cover tells you and that is true), so don't miss the opportunity to see this irresistible and convincing film and enjoy the full cast: Robin Wright in a performance awards are made for, Stockard Channing and Morgan Freeman.

10 out of 10
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A sentimental, but enjoyable movie.
FenFen2 September 1999
When I watched "Moll Flanders", it was impossible not to cry... it's just one of those movies. A sweet and sad film, the title character was excellently played by Robin Wright. Some might find it overly emotional, but I found it very enjoyable in its tenderness.

My only displeasure with this movie is that it is not true to the story in Defoe's wonderful novel "Moll Flanders"; it is true to the novel only in the spirit of the character Moll Flanders. To say the movie was a loose interpretation is not adequate; it's much more of a new story using the old character of Moll Flanders.

Defoe's work has a different (and I find, more entertaining) style as well as a richer plot line. Mobil Masterpiece's presentation of "Moll Flanders" (with Alex Kingston in the title role) is much truer to the novel. I found it much more entertaining and much less sentimental. However, it doesn't have the gut-wrenching emotion of this "Moll Flanders". Each viewer will have to pick their own favorite.
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ferretboi30 August 2005
Yet again Hollywood takes a literary classic and entirely reworks it. "The daughter of a thief, young Moll is placed in the care of a nunnery after the execution of her mother. However, the actions of an abusive priest lead Moll to rebel as a teenager, escaping to the dangerous streets of London." No, this doesn't happen at all. The novel she is handed off to family when her mother is sent to plantations a much more common sentence for criminals at that time when their crime was petty. Further when she was given to family of her mother she then made her way in to the hands of gypsies before being found in Colchester having run off and being taken in by the local Parish. Not "the streets of London" right off the bat. Completely different tone, I understand the need to revise a work for the screen as it may be unworkable from it's original form but this is just an example of another movie where they've reworked the material needlessly and changed the subject matter much to the detriment of the work making the character much more sympathetic. Sad thing is it's a habit of Hollywood that will surely not change.
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energy crisis
samerain12 May 2001
Daniel Defoe would be mortified if he knew that his delightful novel, full of energy and wisdom, was the basis for this plodding, sentimental film. Stockard Channing is delightful to watch in her role... if you mute the sound, so that you aren't forced to endure the dialogue.

Other fine actors are wasted also, including Morgan Freeman looking like he's costarring in Battlefield Earth and knows it. Use this film only as a cure for insomnia. Watch the 1995 British made-for-tv adaptation instead; it does everything right that this film does wrong.
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jirogers28 August 2008
Defoe's original novel, even after all these years, is funny, sad, entertaining and fast-moving. The film is basically only sad, with little resemblance to the novel. It is also dreadfully slow in parts. Some of the acting is good- Stockard Channing makes an excellent Madam, and Aisling Corcoran as the little girl is splendid, producing the few flashes of humour, and there are some very nice cameo parts from well-known British and Irish actors. However, Morgan Freeman (normally a very good actor) seems to have a rather variable accent and to be wondering how he got into this film (not quite Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins, but...), and Robin Wright doesn't really convince me as a lower-class London girl. The costumes and settings give a good impression of what must have been a much less colourful world- particularly effective are the candle-lit indoor scenes. We get an interesting glimpse of the life and customs of late 17th-century/early 18th century England. However, there are some strange anachronisms- for instance, according to the novel, Moll was born in about 1614, but the clients at Mrs Allworthy's house seem to pay with bank-notes, which would have been extremely unusual at that time. Also I doubt that any little girl (even a feisty one like this) brought up in a Catholic orphanage would have used such strong language. This is nit-picking, I know, and it's only a film, but it's a pity that, with a bit more attention to the story-line and the script, the film could have been so much better.
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mdechene26 February 2008
Long movie. Direction good. Photography good. Robin Wright is beautiful. She was the "saving grace" of the movie. Stockard Channing and Morgan Freeman did not need to bother with their roles. Anyone could have played their parts. You sometimes wonder what well-known and/or talented stars are thinking when they choose to play certain roles. Do they REALLY need the money badly enough to lose favor with their fans?? Screenplay was OK. The movie progression was V E R Y slow! John Lynch, Moll's lover/husband played his role well. It rained and was cold the day I watched this movie, so I stuck it out to the bitter end. A nap would have been more rewarding!
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It should have been good!
PreSoylentGreen-124 September 2006
This movie is only barely similar to the book, "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the famous Moll Flanders" written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1722. So if you've read the book don't worry about it spoiling the movie for you. In fact the movie is spoiled all by itself. What a waste of time.

Yes, the cast is good and I think they did as much with this movie as they could. A story like this one is takes skillful telling and this seemed to be put together no better than Frankenstein's monster. Just one scene attached to another from beginning to end.

Even in the book Moll Flanders was not a sympathetic character but I believe they do try to make her one in the movie. They failed. Moll in the movie flows from one moment to the next without ever really taking charge of her life, very unlike the character in the book.

The entire movie is no better than the average television soap opera. Characters display extreme emotions that didn't seem realistic and too often without us really understanding why. Groundwork was not laid for many of the scenes and so the movie left me wondering 'why did they do that' for about two seconds. And then I realized I really didn't care.

A good cast and a movie based on a good book, it really should have been so much better.
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Totally Under rated
GypsyGoddess18 May 2005
This movie is my favorite historical movie ever. It follows the story of a woman named Moll Flanders, whose story is told through a diary given to her daughter. Moll is the daughter of a thief who was hung hours after her daughter's birth. She was raised in a convent, but ran away from there after being molested by a priest. She later becomes a prostitute and the movie follows the joys and misfortunes of her life after that.

With a cast like this one, you can't really make a bad movie. Robin Wright, who most people know from The Princess Bride, stars as Moll. Morgan Freeman, most recently in Million Dollar Baby, plays Hibble.

I give this movie ten stars and consider it a must-see for anyone who enjoys historical movies. It is an especially nice alternative to the 2004 version of Vanity Fair, since this movie is far better.
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A well-acted epic drama
kerryleen14 July 2000
Moll Flanders brings back storytelling in a compelling way. The cast perfectly portrays the characters, resulting in a film that will keep you enthralled until the very last minute. A perfect movie for anyone who believes in destiny.
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Under rated
Kristine13 May 2004
Over all, I thought that "Moll Flanders" was a good movie. It is a little slow moving. That's the only complaint though. The story revolves around Moll Flanders. She's a slave whom goes into prostitution. And one of her customers happens to fall in love with her. They also have a child together. The movie is just about her life. But it's very heart warming, and I think any woman would enjoy it. If you enjoy Morgan Freeman or Robin Write, this is one of their best performances. I'm a little surprised with the rating. But, I guess you can't win them all. I would recommend "Moll Flanders".

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read the book instead
Philip Greenspun27 June 2001
Dafoe's 1722 book, from which this movie is supposedly based, is one of the most important works of the 18th century. It explores the then-new possibility of reinventing oneself in the city. By contrast, people in pre-urban times were constrained by circumstance and family -- everyone in your village knew you so you couldn't make up a new persona.

In the movie, a sentimental Moll wades through a heap of anachronisms. She remains more or less a prisoner of her past and conventional morality at all times. The movie claims that only the character and not the plot is based on Dafoe's book but it is tough to recognize any aspect of Dafoe's Moll here. Which I guess brings us back to considering the movie on its own terms. Imagine Titanic without the special effects (i.e., maybe a good movie for a 14-year-old girl).
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mawkish trash
mym-uk21 May 2000
They just showed this on tv - utter trash. *Catholic Nuns* running an orphanage in early 18th c London? A very few scenes were well shot, but overall this is just mawkish sentimentamerican tv-fodder... honestly....
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Where did this come from?
Gail_Moyer324 January 2007
I was so excited when I saw that there was a movie version of Moll Flanders. It is, perhaps, my favorite book of all time. I put on the movie, curled up w/ some popcorn and a drink, and waited to be awed. Well, I was awed, but not in a good way. This movie had absolutely nothing to do with the book! The only thing it has in common is the title, and the fact that Moll's mother had given birth to her while in prison. Other than that- nothing! Moll was NOT a prostitute, like the movie portrayed. Granted, in the novel, she did go through husbands quite quickly. But they were marriages! If I had never read the book, I would have deeply enjoyed this movie. I love all the actors in the movie. Morgan Freeman is one of my favorite male actors. But, I ended up yelling at the TV during the entire movie. I was fortunate enough to see the 1996 British TV version starring Alex Kingston. That was remarkable, and very accurate. I would suggest to everyone to see this version!
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The 1725 novel's Moll Flanders is MUCH more interesting
dougjn16 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It's perfectly apparent reading though a number of these user comments that almost none of those reviewers have read the novel. I share with another reviewer the view that a movie need not necessarily stick closely to the text that originally inspired it, and sometimes with some novels almost cannot and remain coherent or at all tight. Some movies are better than the novels their based on and others although they stray quite far afield are comparably good.

There was no necessity to junk the original here though, and what's much more important, the result is FAR, FAR less interesting than the original, even considering just the story itself and not so much language, etc.

Though this is I think quite a good movie, with strong acting, it's also a thoroughly conventional story. OK it's still somewhat unusual (though hardly unique) for the feminist heroine to have done considerable time as a prostitute (calling her a whore is entirely within the sense of the novel but seems contrary to the ultimately squeaky clean feminist spirit of the movie) but she was after all an orphaned little girls escaping clerical rape and pedophilia in the movie version, had few options, and didn't know what she was getting into (that last does mirror the book). But otherwise it's a thoroughly conventional tale that hardly strains our sympathies for Moll or makes us wonder how she kept or ever rediscovered her heart and soul – as the book most certainly does do.

You see my problem is that not only could a movie have closely followed the plot and events of the novel (chopping some side stories of course), but it would have been a FAR, FAR more interesting film if had. Defoe's (he also wrote Robinson Crusoe) famous subtitle may give you some flavor: "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders, &c. Who Was Born in Newgate, and During a Life of Continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, Besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, Five Times a Wife (Whereof Once to her Own Brother) Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at Last Grew Rich, Liv'd Honest, and Died a Penitent." The novel's Moll wasn't just a whore, but determined to become a damn good and successful one. She threw herself into her work unreservedly – unlike in the movie. She was an enthusiastic thief, with her own rationale and justification. She married five times, often with a gold diggers purpose. She ended up in colonial Virginia in its early days, when fortunes could and were being made by all kinds of clever people (though almost always by men), and made hers from a beginning there as an indentured servant (as a judicial punishment), that is, a quasi slave for a period of a few years.

The Moll of the novel was a true female adventurer. Like most males who have been through and seen so much, and who had risen based on her cold calculations about people and by using people and their weaknesses, we wonder if she can ever really feel again, but she can and does, when she gets some security. The real Moll Flanders is a fascinating female figure, and to write so sympathetically (though not without some deprecating and ironic asides from time to time) was truly revolutionary in the early 18th century. History of literature aside, she remains a fascinating character – much more so than this movie's rather Disney feminist heroine, who never wants to do any of the bad things she does and stops doing them as soon as she possibly can, consistent with her love commitment, etc., etc.

Interestingly when a movie was done of Tom Jones, who was in some ways a rather similar if a bit less sympathy challenging male character living in more or less the same time period, the movie stuck much more closely to the original story - and that film was done some thirty-five years earlier. Those two characters, Moll Flanders and Tom Jones were perhaps the two most notorious sexual rakes of the highly popular early English novel. Too bad the even more interesting female rake is so toned down for full or facile feminist hagiography purposes, I suppose – that is to say, for full enthusiastic acceptance by the widest possible contemporary female and other audience.

I only hope someone will do a movie that is or could be entitled "The Real Moll Flanders".
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The only thing REMOTELY similar to the book was the title of the Movie
Genkem8 June 2008
I have seen many bad interpretations of books, but this one takes the cake in that it bears NOT EVEN ONE piece of a shadow of a resemblance to the book it is supposed to be based on. It leaves one to wonder where on earth this story came from and why bother using the title "Moll Flanders" at all? Maybe the producers needed to do that in order to keep the money happy? I am flabbergasted, especially since I know and own the vastly superior Masterpiece Theater version starring Alex Kingston that is such a faithful and wonderful interpretation. (I highly recommend THAT version, if you can find it. It's out of print and the reworked 'Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders' is a bit tampered with, though also OOP)

Despite everything, I found the film, apart from the inexcusable deviations, enjoyable in itself. There are preposterous things that could have never happened in that century, which others have already gone into in their reviews, but the story and movie itself is not actually ALL that bad, and there is some excellent work by crew and cast...which is why I gave it some stars. The acting was superb, and the visuals and costuming were a real treat. Bravo to the actors and the costumers. Though overly sentimental and awkwardly structured, the story was serviceable and enjoyable, overall, too, if you allow a little liberty with the realities of the time period, and the ridiculous notion that the story was ordered to be told to the child.

I do have a big complaint, as a visual artist myself, about the paintings that were supposedly the work of Moll's artist-husband. I hate to say, but the artists' paintings should have been much better executed. Though John Lynch's character was supposed to have been an artist who was struggling and always frustrated by his efforts, the execution of an trained artist of that time would have been more mechanically sophisticated, unless he was a primitive self-taught, which, given the well-heeled upbringing of the character, doesn't seem very likely, as lessons in the arts and sciences were common education for the wealthy of that period. The artist was meant to be struggling with the expression of the spirit and essence of the model, not the actual mechanics of the paintings. It is clear in the dialogue that he was struggling to express something finer and deeper about the model, which is more of a metaphysical matter. He says himself, when complimented on how good the painting is, that it is "all mechanical". I believe the designer and the scenic artists sadly misinterpreted the intent of this part of the script, or they just did not have the capabilities or resources to produce the right sort of paintings, which, along with a certain clumsiness in the script, makes the whole premise fall flat. It is too bad because it is one of the better parts of the story.

I give this film four stars. If you enjoy films of this type, do yourself a favor and see the vastly superior Masterpiece Theater version of the book. You won't be sorry you did!
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Entertaining but slowly paced version based on title character from Daniel Defoe's prestigious novel
ma-cortes2 March 2017
¨Moll Flanders¨ (1996) by Pen Densham boasts a very good cast as Robin Wright Penn , Stockard Channing , Brenda Fricker , John Lynch and special mention for Morgan Freeman playing a dignified servant . Colorful retelling based upon a famous and popular novel , setting in the 18th century , London town . A fun romp set from Daniel Defoe's 1722 book focusing a poor orphan girl who seeks wealthy life in England . Born in London's Newgate prison , at the beginning she becomes a house servant at a bourgeois home run by a decent mother (Brenda Fricker) with two daughters but she escapes , and after that , one time grown-up , Moll (Robin Wright Penn) embarks on a risked and unfortunate life , as she eventually finds herself working at the brothel of Mrs Allworthy (Stockard Channning) , there she loses her virginity . As Moll is a beautiful female chased around every bedchamber in a bustling brothel at London town . Soon after , she decides to make her own way and fortune as well as misfortunes ; being always supported by the unwavering friendship of Hibble (Morgan Freeman) . Moll Flanders (female derivative of Tom Jones) plots to get ahead through an advantageous series of romances . But her existence as a whore leads her to drink and near suicide , and things get dreary until she falls for an allegedly impoverished painter (John Lynch) and briefly finds illusion .

Pretty good film , well played , compellingly made and adequately setting . A picture much after the style of ¨Tom Jones¨ and ¨Fanny Hill¨ with bag of incident and color . This period piece turns out to be the 5th on-screen adaptation of Daniel Defoe's 1722 novel , though it misses of the lip-smacking period relish spoiled with a slow and overlong narrative . Being slightly faith to Defoe novel in telling the fortunes and misfortunes of this lively hustler who eventually finds herself working at the brothel of greed and with a scheming landlady . Gorgeous costumes are appropriate to this 18th period . Nice acting from Robin Wright Penn as the wickedly seductive Moll , a spirited heroine who becomes a sensitive prostitute and who briefly finds happiness . Robin Wright holds everything together with help a talented supporting casting . Jon Lynch also gives a heartfelt acting as a crippled as well as enamored artist who finds inspiration on Moll' beauty . The secondary cast is frankly good , such as : Stockard Channing , Jim Sheridan , Maria Doyle Kennedy , Brenda Fricker , Geraldine James and Jeremy Brett's last film . It packs a colorful and glimmer cinematography by David Tattersall . Evocative and stirring soundtrack by Mark Mancina , adding classic music . The motion picture was professionally written and directed by Pen Densham .

Other films based on the bawdy , rousing retelling from Daniel Defoe's novel are the followings : ¨ The amorous adventures of Moll Flanders¨ (1965) by Terence Young with Kim Novak , Richard Johnson , Lilli Palmer , Vittorio De Sica , George Sanders , Leo McKern . Furthermore , TV rendition (1976) ¨Moll Flanders¨ with Julia Foster , Kenneth Haigh , Barry Jackson and Ian Ogilvy . And TV Mini-series in four episodes ¨Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders" by David Attwood with Alex Kingstone , Daniel Craig , James Fleet , Diana Rigg , Tom Ward , Roger Ashton-Griffiths , Ronald Frazer , James Larkin and Christopher Fulford
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Nowhere near the book, but even better!
StarDragyn29 June 2015
99% of the time I'm a staunch purist. A classic book should be portrayed on film as close to the original as possible, leaving room for the necessary conversions of text to screen. That being said, there are exceptions to every rule, and this movie is one of them.

I had not read the book prior to watching this movie, but had read IMDb reviews that it was far from accurate, so I was skeptical going into it. The movie, in fact, was outstanding! I was riveted, drawn into the story, and anxious to find out what happened next. It was fascinating and intriguing. I think the best comparison I can make with it is a Dickens story set about 150 years earlier than his books. It's dark and gritty, highlighting the lowlifes of society and the shortcomings of the society that contributes to make these lowlifes. Yet there is considerable irony and a bit of humor to counteract the darkness. Love, life, death, joy, grief, sickness, deprivation, aspiration.... It is in short a microcosm of life as it is today, but through the window of days past. One feels the emotions that the characters are experiencing, because they are feelings we've already experienced ourselves. However, although this movie is frequently tragic, it is not a tragedy. I could not recommend it so highly if it was, because I don't like to walk away from a movie feeling depressed.

I liked the movie so much that I began reading the book that very night, and I finished it 8 days later. Where did the book differ from the movie? It would be easier to state where they resembled each other! I would have been hard-pressed to see any similarity between the two had they been published under different titles. For one thing, the book covers the title character's entire life up past the age of 60, whereas the movie only takes her up to maybe 30, and what goes on in that time frame is widely different from what goes on in the book.

In the movie makers' defense, they do have in the opening credits the following caveat: "Based on a character in a novel by Daniel Defoe". Okay, so it's based on the CHARACTER of Moll Flanders, not on the story itself. That's a legitimate, though tiny-print, concept. However, even the CHARACTER of Moll Flanders in the movie is quite different from the book. One big digression (out of many) is that movie-Moll has strong paternal, motherly characteristics, whereas book-Moll has essentially none. Secondly, Moll's name isn't even really Moll in the book; it never tells us her real name, and "Moll Flanders" is merely one of her many aliases, and one that she doesn't pick up until her 50s.

I can't possibly go into all the digressions. It would be boring and overextend the 1000 words limit. Suffice it to say, there is scarcely a shadow of similarity between the one and the other. If you have read the book, disregard the title and watch this as its own entity. If you haven't read the book, no need to worry about seeing any spoilers that might ruin a future reading. There is almost no overlap.

However, in spite of this "sin" of gross inaccuracy, I LOVED the movie, and I thought the book was only mediocre. The movie had a great plot development; the book has almost no plot. It was first published in 1722 and, like much early fiction, is mostly just a chain of events. We are told the many escapades of Moll Flanders, but there is no real story arc. (I'm not saying don't read it, just know what you're getting into; it's interesting, but not terribly fulfilling as a novel, in the modern sense of the genre.)

I was impressed with Robin Wright's performance (as Moll). I had thought little of her acting in "Princess Bride", and almost didn't watch the film because she had the title role; but she did a much better job in this film, and showed a much fuller range of acting ability and emotion. The other actors also filled their roles superbly. And the settings and costumes were magnificently done.

One thing that may affect your opinion of this movie is the content. By all standards I've ever watched, this ought to be R-rated. It's not extremely explicit (hence it is not in fact R), but it is considerably so for a PG-13, and I would be cautious showing this to young viewers. Not just for sexuality, but also for some rather graphic scenes (including blood) and overall mature themes.

However, for a mature viewer I think this was a fantastic movie with a great storyline. It's very thought-provoking, and the impression of it still lingers with me a couple weeks later. The writers used Defoe's book as a springboard to better ideas and a more cohesive and rewarding story. It would have been more accurate to have said that it was "inspired by" Defoe's book, rather than "based on", but it is one of those rare cases where the movie is in fact better than the book.
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Sweeping tale but Robin Wright is a bit old for the role.
phd_travel10 November 2012
This is an epic and unexpected period tale with some rather out of place modern touches to the story. It covers quite a sweeping journey from orphanage to whorehouse to art to class differences to the New World. Whatever the differences from the novel, it is a moderately watchable movie.

There are some hits and misses with the casting. Robin Wright in the title role is a bit old for the role - when she tries to play a virgin wench it's a bit frightful. Might have been better to use a different actress for the earlier part and then switch to her. Stockard Channing is suitably grotesque as the madam. Morgan Freeman is watchable even though his accent is neither here nor there. The English cast is more convincing but I guess they needed some international names for box office draw.

Overall worth a watch but not a great movie.
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It could have been so much better!
homespun1311 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I normally love period dramas, particularly those that enable me to "travel in time" to another time and place and experience, for a moment, what life was like in those times. I also like movies with an English/Scottish/Irish setting, so I looked forward to seeing this movie. Sadly, I was disappointed. I did not read the book this movie was based on, but based on reading the reviews here, I get the picture that the movie hardly resembled the book. Much of the plot did not make sense - this must have been the parts that the movie makers changed from the original. When plot does not make sense, the movie loses credibility. The performances were fine, but in general I felt that great talent had been wasted or not utilized to its potential. The movie features some really good actors who deliver good performances, but it's not enough to compensate for the inconsistencies in the storyline and what appear to be historical inaccuracies. The relatively happy ending is about all that was enjoyable about this movie.
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