Writer/director Sofia Coppola is one of the few female directors who doesn’t let any project get in her way. She has a vision that’s unlike some other directors that seem different from the rest. Let’s not forget that she won an Oscar for writing Lost in Translation. While I haven’t seen all of her previous work beforehand, seeing her adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan’s novel The Beguiled will probably me feel either me wanting more or feeling like it’s just what I needed.
An injured Union soldier arrives at an all-female Southern boarding school during the Civil War. Soon, sexual tensions lead to dangerous rivalries as the women tend to his wounds and offer him shelter and companionship.
I’ve never read the book or watched the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie on which it was based on. The trailers made you believe that this was going to be a thriller the entire time. But I was optimistic because of Coppola, and since he did win Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival, I can understand why people will likely enjoy this more than me.
Coppola’s direction is definitely beautiful as if it was made in the 70’s with great looking cinematography, shot in 35mm film, with its very small settings just from this school that only has a small group of women there. The reason is that there’s nobody else at the school because of the Civil War happening. From her perspective from the script, she goes for the atmospheric, moody tone through that makes it unsettling a time.
With very little actors there are here, Coppola does a terrific job at knowing to get each star to show off. The performances are what makes the film’s quality very high up. Colin Farrell as Corporal John McBurney was amazing in his role. It was during the second act leading in the final act is where he totally got me hooked on the rest of the movie. Nicole Kidman as Miss Martha Farnsworth, the headmistress, stays calm and collective for the most part in a good way. Kirsten Dunst, in her third collaboration with Coppola after The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette, as the teacher Edwina provides one of the best her she provided in a long time. And Elle Fanning as Alicia just gets better with anything she’s in with her being the oldest who’s bored until McBurney comes in.
There are some sexual tensions between McBurney and the women there, and it felt ominous. You don’t know if McBurney is trying to win the favor of the girls one at a time, or if it’s something else that we’re not seeing anytime it happens. It was to possibly show that these ladies haven’t seen a man and maybe want to believe that he isn’t a bad man all along.
The film itself is a slow burn, especially the first half where it’s just talking with exceptional writing. Maybe I thought this was going to end up as mysterious or something really wicked was going to happen. Most of the time are scenes where it’s very tamed without a lot happening. If there as humor being thrown in here, I honestly couldn’t tell because I probably wouldn’t get what’s so humorous about a scene or what was said.
I also thought the ending left me cold and different from what I was expecting.
In the end, I’m probably one of the few people who thought there was going to be more to this, but there’s no denying that this was an eerie drama that’s made out to be compelling and a sense of suspense when it’s there. This probably won’t be considered as one of the best movies of the year and probably will get shut out of Oscar talk except for Costume Design and Cinematography. I thought The Beguiled was going to be better than it sounds. But fans of Coppola’s previous work will be delighted with one of her best work in a while.
The Beguiled is the kind of period piece that isn’t for everyone, but its performances make for another solid in Sofia Coppola’s continuing career.