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The Next Reel • Season 13 • Series: 1995 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Director Nominees • The Scarlet Letter

Film Details

Series: Director:
Year: Decade:

The Scarlet Letter

“Why do you wait? Put it on for it is not a badge of my shame, but your own.”

Roland Joffé took on the challenge of adapting Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter for the big screen in 1995. With a passion for the source material and a vision to expand the story in ways he felt Hawthorne was restricted from doing, Joffé assembled an impressive cast including Demi Moore, Gary Oldman and Robert Duvall. However, despite his noble intentions, many critics felt Joffé’s reach exceeded his grasp. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue the 1995 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Director Nominees series with a conversation about The Scarlet Letter.

Here’s a hint at what we talk about:

We discuss how Joffé’s ambitions to elevate the material and expand the story ended up making the film feel overstuffed and unfocused. The heavy-handed symbolism, like the constantly reappearing “red bird of passion,” also didn’t work for us. And we both found the new “happy ending” Joffé devised to be a disappointment compared to the novel’s more downbeat conclusion. However, we do appreciate his attempts to incorporate more of the indigenous American perspective.

Here are a few other points in our discussion:

  • The overly sentimental score by John Barry… that’s still an amazing score
  • Whether the principle cast was well-suited for a period drama
  • The absurdity of Robert Duvall’s unhinged performance that’s still undeniably entertaining
  • The unnecessary Pearl voiceover narration

Overall, while we can appreciate some of what Joffé was trying to accomplish, we feel his reach exceeded his grasp in many ways, resulting in a film that feels messy and unsatisfying. But we have a great time talking about it, so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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