Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Emma Howard, Addison Riecke
Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scene)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 7 September 2017
Synopsis: The Beguiled is a seductive drama from acclaimed writer/director Sofia Coppola, adapted from Thomas Cullinan’s novel. The story unfolds during the Civil War, at a Southern girls’ boarding school. Its sheltered young women encounter an injured enemy soldier. As they provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries, and taboos are broken in an unexpected turn of events.
Sofia Coppola became the second lady in history to win the Best Director award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, expectedly The Beguiled is nothing but a dreamy period outing that only the artistic crowd will appreciate and adore. The rest of the mere mortals (including this reviewer) need not apply.
Based on a 1966 novel by American novelist and playwright Thomas P. Cullinan, Coppola took the liberty to adapt it to the big screen culminating in a pretty brief 94 minutes runtime though the entire affair seems like 9 hours 4 minutes in reality.
Assembling a cast that includes the prestigious, period drama regular Nicole Kidman, Coppola’s frequent collaborator Kristen Dunst, up-and-still-coming Elle Fanning and once Hollywood bad boy Colin Farrell and set in the midst of the civil war, The Beguiled tells the story of an injured deserter, Corporal John McBurney (Farrell) who happens to seek shelter in a boarding school whereby there are only two teachers, Miss Martha Farnsworth (Kidman), Edwina Morrow (Dunst) and their five students, Alicia (Fanning), Amy (Oona Laurence), Jane (Angourie Rice), Emily (Emma Howard) and Marie (Addison Riecke).
The Beguiled simply can’t make up it’s mind to be a comedy or a provocative thriller. Shortly after McBurney shifted into the boarding school, the girls start to dress up to catch the attention of the rugged, good looking man in the house. Should I add the ONLY man in the movie except for some brief scenes involving confederate soldiers passing by. It’s laughable even sickening at some point when a girl less than 10 years puts on a pair of Edwina’s earrings just to involve in some small talk with McBurney. But hey this movie is done from a woman’s perspective so I guess it’s perfectly all right.
Undeniably, the cast looks great in corsets parading with much style throwing lusty eyes at McBurney who happened to be bedridden because of a leg injury. Despite that, McBurney who might not be a competent soldier in the field has no problems manipulating every girls in the household from Amy (who happens to be the one who brought him to the school in the first place) to a horny Alicia to Edwina who can’t wait to be conquer by a soldier who volunteers to stay back as a gardener for Miss Martha. It gets incredibly quirky like a cheap porno flick as the movie goes but I can’t laugh out loud because it’s a serious movie after all.
Depending how good your eyesight is, the movie is often bathed in candlelights and natural lighting courtesy of French cinematographer Philipe Le Sourd (Seven Years, The Grandmaster). It’s an atmospheric affair though it can gets irritable if you can’t see the faces of the beautiful cast for most of the time.
Like the lavish Marie Antoinette and satricial crime drama,The Bling Ring, Coppola fails to delve deeper into the motives and complexity of the characters. This is a pity consider that Coppola already kept things small and confined. There’s no backstories of anyone or any context of the ongoing war. While it may seems I hated the movie a lot, I did enjoyed the production values and the wonderful cast performances on the contrary. Did I say there’s a nice twist to the all the sexual tension on display? As a caution, just stay far away from mushrooms sautee in butter and wine.
(Watch for the acting and gorgeous production values otherwise it’s a slow-pace arthouse drama filled with unintentional laughs
Review by Linus Tee