Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Beguiled

The Beguiled is a remake of a 1971 film of the same name (which starred Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page), which was based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan. This time around we have Colin Farrell in the lead role as Corporal McBurney, a Yankee soldier caught behind enemy lines in Virginia during the Civil War. The wounded soldier is found by a girl named Amy (Oona Laurence), who takes him to a girls’ school led by Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), who begins the process of nursing him back to health while hiding him from the Confederate army. It doesn’t take long for the charming and handsome man to attract the attention of two other young women in the school: Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and Alicia (Elle Fanning), creating an overwhelming amount of sexual tension and not inconsiderable jealousy, with shocking results.

This remake is written and directed by Sofia Coppola, who won Best Director at Cannes this year (I repeat, it’s been a good year for women in filmmaking). She does a great job of creating a dark, haunting, sexually-charged Southern Gothic atmosphere for the story (the film itself is literally very dark) and she gets excellent performances from all of her actors. She also does a great job of telling the story from a female point of view, which is critical.

Unfortunately, Coppola goes for an understated restraint in her storytelling that keeps things moving but doesn’t allow the film to flow the way it should (it feels somewhat stilted instead). It’s almost like she is going for style over feeling, which seems somehow ironic. As a result, we struggled to sympathize with any of the characters and could not engage fully with the film.

What could have been a classic (and has received a lot of critical acclaim) didn’t quite work for us (maybe my expectations were too high). The Beguiled gets only a solid ***. My mug is up.

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