Hot Take: Sofia Coppola won Best Director at Cannes for this film and it was well deserved. Don’t overlook some great performances from Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell though.
The most impressive feat of The Beguiled, a remake of a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood of the same name, might be its length. There’s not much of a story in the tale in that it is simplistic. However, there is some complexity to its characters that gets fleshed out in just 93 minutes. The film quickly resolves itself but never feels slight nor does the story feel slighted despite its incredibly short run time. Credit Coppola for altering the source material enough for the film to stand apart from the original and for slimming it down to make every moment throughout the film count which, in this day and age of filmmaking, is a rarity.
The Beguiled begins three years into the Civil War when Amy (Oona Laurence) discovers a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) in the woods of Virginia. Amy helps Corporal McBurney back to the girls’ boarding school which she lives and the girls of the house tend to the wounded soldier to help nurse him back to health. Initially, the group of women are hell bent on turning the Corporal over to the Southern army as a prisoner but decide the Christian thing to do would be to allow him to heal before turning him over. The adult of the house is Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) who has a stern, cold exterior and runs a regimented household. As Corporal McBurney heals, he charms the Southern girls and creates some jealousy and havoc amongst the group who vie for his attention. Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and Alicia (Elle Fanning) seem to hit it off the most with the Corporal but the dynamic of the household shifts as the Corporal attempts to make himself invaluable to the girls and remain far away from the Southern forces that would likely execute him if taken as prisoner.
The slow simmer of the plot is counterbalanced with the quick resolution of the storyline in one of the least wasteful films of recent memory. In 93 minutes, you never feel shortchanged by the tightly edited film thanks to pitch perfect performances from the cast and artful direction from Coppola. If it weren’t so early in the season, The Beguiled would have received some Oscar buzz. With a June release, it’s a long shot at best and even with all of the praise I’ve heaped upon it, I still wouldn’t consider it the best movie of the year.
The Beguiled is not your typical summer fare. It functions as both a drama and a Southern gothic horror tale thanks to some of the twists and turns of the plot. It’s an atmospheric treat to watch and while the film falls just short of great, it’s pretty damn good.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Southern Girls Gone Wild
There’s a level of unspoken insanity that the presence of Farrell’s McBurney brings to the boarding school. It’s fun to watch the way Coppola decides to portray the dynamic as it changes and gives the girls a great showcase to show off their acting talents to deliver the portrayal.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Marketing
The posters and trailer seem a bit off from the actual resulting film. I walked into The Beguiled expecting “guilty pleasure” and what I got was something with much more substance.