Title: The Beguiled
Director: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst
Runtime: 93 Minutes
What It Is: Sofia Coppola writes and directs this western drama remake of the 1971 film inspired by Thomas Cullinan’s book. Set during the American Civil War, the film follows John McBurney (Colin Farrell), a wounded Union soldier taken in and held by the all-female staff of a Confederate girls’ boarding school led by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman). While there, McBurney cunningly plays the women off against each other, working on their sexual frustrations and biding his time until he can attempt an escape. However, with dangerous rivalries beginning to develop in the house, it’s not long before the girls start to turn on each other and then McBurney.
What We Think: Coppola makes clear here that the story belongs to the women in the film as opposed to the original which is focused on the male lead and to be honest, I felt it didn’t work all that well as it was so one dimensional. I feel the director stripped away the rich character development of the original as well as the removal of the sexual fantasy element which was a key feature of the original. When the film wanted to surprise you it simply doesn’t.
Kidman brings an unexpected humor to Martha a woman who has no issue with rolling her sleeves up and getting done what needs to be done no matter how grizzly. Dunst gives a very understated and nuanced performance as a woman who yearns for companionship of any kind. However, overall I have to say that this is one of these films that can annoy me because not much happens and in terms of being entertained I just wasn’t really. It was aesthetically beautiful to look at but ultimately the cinematography cannot make up for the lagging plot.
Our Grade: D, It’s clear that Coppola is under no obligation to execute anything other than what she set out to do in the first place which is to take the original and refashion it from a contemporary female perspective. In this respect, I suppose it does succeed. However, you can’t help but feel she could have used this wide open canvas to create a bigger picture so overall I was a little deflated.