Moll Flanders Review

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Daniel Defoe's classic rags to riches tale of an orphan girl who became a lady of means.


Daniel Defoe's much-filmed bawdy 18th century classic here gets a lacklustre Hollywood treatment with Morgan Freeman telling the story of Moll Flanders to her daughter Flora (Aisling Corcoran) en route to America. As read from her diary, we follow the adventures and misfortunes of the heroine (Wright) from abused orphan to lady of means. But what should be a lively costume adventure, turns out humourless and flat.

Abused in the confessional by a lustful priest, Cinderella-like Moll is eventually driven into the hands of good-hearted Hibble (Freeman) servant to a cold, avaricious Madam (Channing), and goes from scrubbing floors to selling her body to an assortment of fat clergymen and toffs. On the loss of a colleague, Moll takes to the bottle, not climbing out until she meets the impoverished aristocratic artist (John Lynch). At which point the plot puts its feet up and takes a rest.

Bereft of such period staples as taverns, piss pots, wigs, serving wenches, bedroom romps, and colourful diseases, the end product is an 18th century with the life sucked out of it. Wright, though beautiful, goes woodenly through her life in a permanently bad mood. Even Morgan Freeman looks uncomfortable in his hose and embarrassed at uttering the often silly dialogue. But at least the accents are there to provide an unintentional laugh: Freeman's teeters on Dick Van Dyke; Wright's deserves a showing in Albert Square.

While well-intentioned, this is pallid, dull, and completely misses the flavour of both Defoe and the 18th century.