Scarlet Letter, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2 1/2

Content: -2

In 1661 the newly formed colony of Massachusetts is struggling to survive. As rules are being set to keep order, Hester Prynne (Demi Moore), a beautiful young woman appears. She has preceded her husband, Roger (Robert Duvall), to establish a new home in a place where they can worship God without fear of persecution. Disaster strikes, however, the minute she meets the local minister, Arthur Dimmesdale (Gary Oldman). The two are immediately drawn to one another, but do not act upon their passionate attraction until Roger is reported missing and assumed dead. Hester and Arthur then throw discretion to the wind and engage in a passionate love affair that results in an illegitimate child. Hester faces the consequences of her sin and refuses to reveal that Arthur is her lover, knowing he would be hanged. The townspeople scorn the young woman, forcing her to wear the scarlet letter to label her as an adulteress. This film version of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel is very disappointing, mediocre entertainment even though it is a heartfelt, deeply moving story of passion and disgrace.

Hollywood has made Hawthorne's characters shallow and one-dimensional. For example, Arthur's struggle with his sin kills him in the novel. But in the movie, his anguish seems hypocritical as he tells God that he will not give up Hester even after her husband returns. Also, when Hester expresses fear that her prayers have caused her husband's death, Arthur soothes his lover by saying that God could have orchestrated it to free her. The movie sums itself up by asking the question, Who is to say what is right in God's eyes? What an atrocity. Is that not the purpose of the Bible? In addition, there are savage Indian attacks with throats slit, heads scalped and arrows shot. Although distasteful, crude language is held to a few cruditiess and a few obscenities. However, nudity and sex abound. Full frontal and rear nudity, both male and female, occurs several times. A very steamy, graphic sex scene between Hester and Arthur with rear nudity, plus a rape scene further trash this early American classic. Entertainment Weekly says it all in their review: The all-new SCARLET LETTER has steamy sex, Native Americans, and Demi Moore as a liberated Puritan flirt. All that's missing is Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel.

Preview Reviewer: Sherry Oswald
Buena Vista Distribution, 350 S. Buena Vista Blvd., Burbank, CA 91521

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Few (3) times - Moderate

Obscene Language: Few (4) times (no s- or f-words)

Profanity: Few (4) times - Exclamatory

Violence: Many times - Moderate and Severe (savage Indian attacks, throats slit, stabbing, beatings, arrows shot to head and neck, arms pulled out; hanging, rape, murder and mutilation of woman)

Sex: Once (graphic, unmarried couple, male rear nudity)

Nudity: Several times (full and side breast nudity, male and female rear nudity; slightly obscured full female and male nudity)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Several times (man and woman caressing; forced kiss; crude references to intercourse; self-gratification)

Drugs: Few times (drinking and smoking)

Other: Indian spiritism, including bird representing sexual freedom; minister seized by spirit; adulterous affair treated sympathetically; child accused of being a witch)

Running Time:
Intended Audience: Adults

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