In 1996, two adaptions of the Daniel Defoe novel The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders were brought to the screen — an American film version starring Robin Wright Penn and a British TV version starring Alex Kingston. The American film took the character of Moll, makes her a prostitute (with Stockard Channing as the madame), and eventually Moll falls in love with an artsy dude and is “redeemed.” This is almost entirely nothing like Defoe’s book.
The four-part British miniseries of Moll Flanders is very faithful to the novel and uses a great deal of the actual text, including having Kingston’s Moll directly address the audience. The original work is written as an autobiography, so breaking the third wall and using voiceovers gives a strong first-person feeling. It doesn’t hurt that Kingston is a highly engaging actor and well-suited to the alternately conniving and tender-hearted character of Moll. The only problem is that the book takes Moll from teenage to her 60s, and there’s no attempt to youthen or age Kingston. The only indicator of time passing is some of the fashions changing, which looks a little odd more than anything. Still, the performances are wonderful, there’s romance, sex, humor, adventure, and really good costumes, so this Moll Flanders is the one to watch, no question!
Are you a fan of Moll Flanders with Alex Kingston?