Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reviews:
The Scarlet Letter (1995)
Cementing Demi Moore’s reputation as a woman who will take her clothes off
What more can you say about a movie that Leonard Maltin describes as a “hokey adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel” that “throws in everything from witch hunts to Indian attacks to a controversial happy ending ... Moore is woefully miscast as Hester Prynne ... Gary Oldman gives a histrionic performance, while Robert Duvall is simply incomprehensible. Shamelessly “erotic” love scenes are especially embarrassing, shot in soft-focus with phallic candles and a chirpy Disney bird (credited as Rudy the Robin) who sings for sexual freedom!” Well, quite a bit more, actually. Here’s MST-3000's Mike Nelson:
Certainly when one sees Demi Moore’s towering performance in Striptease, (Joe Bob Briggs checked it out) one feels certain that behind it all is a well-compensated nanny who is comfortable with her benefits package. Though I’ve never been in such a position, I can only imagine that it’s easier to shake your potatoes for the camera when you know your children are snug at home with the lady from the placement agency.
I revisited Moore’s oeuvre recently, selecting the Barry Levinson sex romp Disclosure and the saucy Nathaniel Hawthorne potboiler The Scarlet Letter.
The Scarlet Letter; as you’ll recall from high school (I can’t recall, as I was too busy reading Mad Magazine), is the story of Hester Prynne and her forbidden love, a love that threatened the repressive Puritans of 17th century Boston. I think. As I’ve said, I’ve never read it. I do know that in Roland Joffe’s version, it’s the story of Demi Moore and how “buff” she is. It’s the story of how modern doctors, using the new blue laser technology, can incise the dermal and subdermal layers without the need for extensive cauterization, resulting in less visible scars.
At the time of its release, much was made of the movie’s blatant disrespect for the source book. Though I’m ill-equipped to comment, I do have to wonder whether the novel contained as much break dancing as the movie! And was Dimmesdale a member of the pop group Hanson in the book as well? But I kid irreverent adaptations.
I do have to wonder whether Hawthorne would have wanted as many fully nude sponge baths as there were in the movie. What I mean is, I’ve no doubt that as a man Hawthorne wanted pretty much nothing but sponge baths, but he probably wouldn’t have wanted so many of them depicted in the film version of his book.
Actually, The Scarlet Letter isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It’s not good, certainly, but despite Moore’s predictably wooden performance, it’s beautifully shot and occasionally watchable. It’s just that it has little to do with The Scarlet Letter, if my paper-thin knowledge of the story is to be trusted. It might just as well have been based on the obscure 1978 hydraulic manual The Movement & Storage of Viscous Industrial Fluids.
While Letter is a better movie, it is somehow less entertaining than the bottomlessly horrible Disclosure, starring Moore and rough-sex specialist Michael Douglas.
Based on the Michael Crichton book and directed by Barry “Diner” Levinson, Disclosure is the story of a hip, Seattle software company full to brimming with dark, hateful little people patrolling the glass-and-steel corridors of their self-made hell, deluding themselves with the belief that they’re doing something good for the world even while stuffing their dank, Starbucks-stained Dockers with fistfuls of money that does nothing to quell the aching in their gaunt little souls.
Hmmm. Sounds vaguely familiar.
Not surprisingly, and not that we should care, one of these idiots paws another of these idiots on the job, and the poor, pawed idiot (Douglas) files a lawsuit, causing some sort of wan tension among him and the other idiots at his company.
The “sex scenes,” such as they are, will make you glad you have chapter skip on your DVD player. Watching the reptilian Douglas rub his oily, aging body all over the gristly Moore made me nostalgic for the time I saw 2 geckos locked in coitus.
While the movie attempts to raise provocative questions about sexual conduct at the workplace, it unfortunately uses Moore’s plastic chest and Douglas’s liposuctioned backside to make its point. The filmmakers are either blindly stupid, horribly cynical, or irretrievably corrupt.
Speaking of cynical, slap-dab in the middle of all this is the smug, self-proclaimed minister of hip, Dennis Miller, making puerile erection jokes. I suppose they’re easier than Goethe references.
While Moore’s status as a serious actor is in some little doubt (certainly as long as she continues to make David Caruso-like film choices), Disclosure and The Scarlet Letter cement Demi’s impressive reputation as a woman who will take her cloths off.
"The Scarlet Letter" availability on video and on DVD from Amazon.com
Books by Michael Nelson available from Amazon.com include Movie Megacheese. Mike's episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are available from Amazon.com on both video and on DVD, and he co-wrote the MST3000 book
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Gee, I wonder what Joe Bob Briggs thought of Demi Moore in the apocalyptic movie The Seventh Sign?” Well, check out MonsterVision host segments for The Seventh Sign
Mike’s review of The Shadow
© 2000 Michael J. Nelson. All rights reserved, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles & reviews. Mike Nelson is no relation to Lloyd Bridges and has never run low on air while hunting around under the sea.
* When asked about changing the ending to the story, Demi Moore reportedly said it was okay with her to make the ending happy because not many people have read the book.
Trivia (Courtesy of the Internet Movie Database)
* Three original scores were written for this film. The ones by Ennio Morricone and Elmer Bernstein were rejected. The one used was by John Barry
* The girls who play infant Pearl and little Pearl are Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's real life daughters, Scout and Tallulah Willis.
* The book was filmed previously in 1908, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1920, 1926, 1934, 1972, & 1979 (a TV mini-series)