The Scarlet Letter Reviews
Hester Prynne (Demi Moore) comes to the New World as a free thinker who pretty much speaks her mind and wears lace which apparently is a problem. One of the people she comes across Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale (Gary Oldman) who just loves showing off his ass while swimming in a lake. They "fall in love" and do the dirty. However, Hester finds herself pregnant and she's ostracized by the community. She's forced to wear a Scarlet Letter "A". You'd think by that plot description this would be a somewhat accurate depiction of "The Scarlet Letter" novel. But here's the thing... it's NOT. More than half of the movie is focused on the stupid love story and the love connection between our two boring leads. The whole religious persecution, hypocrisy and even the actual Scarlet Letter is hardly ever brought up. But I'll get to that a bit later.
The acting is mainly just "blah" for the most part. Gary Oldman though he is trying just doesn't really do anything in his performance to stand out. Robert Duvall just phones in his performance. Granted, he pretty much plays a cartoony bad guy but still a bad performance is a bad performance. But the worst of the acting in this movie is Demi Moore. I don't even get it, why would you cast an actress like Demi Moore to portray a character like Hester Prynne? She can barely emote basic emotions like happiness or sadness how is she going to emote complicated ones like eternal struggle? Not to mention her chemistry with Gary Oldman is nonexistent. Their love scene is like watching two unsalted crackers make love.
If I had to pick out that one thing that sinks this movie, it would be the fact that everything in The Scarlet Letter is romanticized and sappy. There is no real theme or idea being addressed in this film. Every character and story element is so boring because it's just a fantasy with no real purpose. I don't care about Hester, Dimmesdale or anybody else in this movie because the script and director Roland Joffe don't care about any of these characters either. This movie is a fairy tale and that's not what "The Scarlet Letter" is. This is not me being critical because this film is not close to the book, this is me being critical because this film lacks any care or passion. Every single thing in this movie is sugar coated and simplified.
The Scarlet Letter novel isn't exactly a book I read over and over again. However, I do know what it's purpose and main idea. Nobody involved in this movie knew why The Scarlet Letter is considered a classic. This film is just one thing... a sexualized fan fiction of Hawthorne's Novel. It's poorly written, horribly acted and terribly directed. I was really looking forward to this movie to be a funny mess, but it's just a boring waste of time.
The Scarlet Letter's first qualities to hit me were the lush production design and fine cinematography that we witnessed in Roland Joffe's excellent earlier piece The Mission. Also, the production design was lavish and looked exquisitely sophisticated along with its classically atmospheric costumes, and it all blended with the beautiful musical score. The Scarlet Letter has itself set up really well. Plus, it's filmed on beautiful locations. So The Scarlet Letter sets itself up to be a technical achievement really fast, and consistently succeeds.
And once Demi Moore's enters the screen, it becomes apparent she has worked hard on voice articulation to ensure a convincing English accent which is never overdone, and its very well done. We soon witness her portraying the iconic character Hester Prynne in a manner which conveys her innocence and fragility in a society averse to her way of life, and really she gives it her all in a fine performance which is sweet and comes with a soothing smile, and an unfathomed body with such physical beauty that it embodies the physicality of the character Hester Prynne is told to be, and she mixes her character's stoic nature and passion together well.
She also shares a fine chemistry with co-star Gary Oldman, who captures the artistic passion of his character with grace and civility, and he really embodies his character's strength for the part.
I honestly can't say I expected to like The Scarlet Letter, but its hard hitting drama and themes of being a struggling woman in a chauvinistic religious society were strong. The atmosphere was excellent, and although he apparently deviated too far from the source novel, I enjoyed the direction Roland Joffe gave to The Scarlet Letter because he made it work as a standalone piece, particularly because of his handling of what themes have been left in this "free adaptation", application of symbolism and articulation of the atmosphere which makes The Scarlet Letter a passionate piece.
But the pacing of the story changed immediately once Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale says "God help me, I love thee" because the characters haven't developed enough or built a fine enough chemistry just yet to convey such a convincing love for each other, and whether this actually happened in the source novel or is just a mistake that occurred amongst Roland Joffe's adaptation, either way its unimpressive.
Plus, at some key moments in The Scarlet Letter the poor quality slow motion effect is used to excessive and becomes the primary downfall of the film's visual quality.
Also, Roland Joffe fails to emphasise the importance behind the title of The Scarlet Letting and hat it means, and it leaves the viewer's imagination to figure it out.
Nevertheless, I found that The Scarlet Letter was a compelling, good looking and well acted film which I found featured characters I could connect with even as it charters through dynamics that have been half assed in their adaptations.