Moll Flanders

on June 14, 1996 by Kim Williamson
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   The classic Daniel Dafoe tale (as adapted by filmmaker Pen Densham) not only makes for good literary fare, it makes for an interesting change of pace for a summer of actioners and comedies. This story of an impoverished young woman ("Forrest Gump's" Robin Wright) in 1700s London has a certain sweep and historical verisimilitude that transport audiences to a different era, when life on the streets for a girl led to prostitution.
   And so it does for the strong-headed Moll, but Densham is more interested in triumph here than tribulation. Although that cuts down on eventual dramatic tension, Wright gives the proper backbone to her character, and as her aide-de-camp in life Morgan Freeman brings a moral grandeur of interesting complexity. Moll's romance with the painter son (John Lynch) of a wealthy family, who're very much against the union, could have run deeper; it's poetasty, not poetry. And the Cruella de Vil turn by Stockard Channing as Moll's madame is little more than one, arch note. But the film closes with a fine grace Moll making sure that the next life is better that more than compensates for that.    Starring Robin Wright, Morgan Freeman and Stockard Channing. Directed and written by Pen Densham. Produced by John Watson, Richard B. Lewis and Pen Densham. An MGM release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for violence, nudity and sex-related material. Running time: 122 min.
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