Stars: Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, Robert Duvall, Robert Prosky, Edward Hardwicke, Joan Plowright. Written by Douglas Day Stewart. Directed by Roland Joffe. Rated R for nudity, adult themes.

With marginally talented Demi Moore as the heroine/adulteress, "The Scarlet Letter" didn't stand much of a chance of turning out good. Throw in the fact that the film is only superficially related to its source material and you've got a disaster waiting to happen.

Hester Prynne (Moore) moves to a new town and promptly falls in love with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale (Gary Oldman). They do their best to fight back their strong feelings for each other, but when word comes that Roger Prynne (Robert Duvall) has been killed by Indians, the floodgates open. Although they keep their romance behind closed doors, the townsfolk discover something is afoot when Hester shows signs of morning sickness.

Refusing to divulge the name of the baby's father, Hester is forced by the local government to wear the letter "A" to signify her crime. It so happens that Roger had not been killed after all, and he wants revenge against the man who turned his wife from him. He reveals himself to nobody except Hester and assumes a new identity in town. He wants to discover who the baby's father is on his own.

Taking several liberties with Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel, "The Scarlet Letter" isn't so much a literary adaptation as a literary contortion. The ending, where Hester and her new family ride off into the sunset, is almost too much to bear. Oldman and a few of the others give it a game try, but the ever- present Moore undermines their efforts.

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