The Beguiled (2017)
Critic Consensus: The Beguiled adds just enough extra depth to its source material to set itself apart, and director Sofia Coppola's restrained touch is enlivened by strong performances from the cast.
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Critic Reviews for The Beguiled
The general view seems to be that civilization might survive and even flourish if men weren't around to wreck it with their making of love and war, but where's the fun in that?
The Beguiled is better directed than it is written... In its study of interpersonal rivalry and sexual tension, the film doesn't say anything that wasn't better articulated in Don Siegel's 1971 adaptation.
The Beguiled is Coppola's bloodiest, most visceral movie to date, and it is also one of her best.
Fanning, Dunst and the on-a-roll Kidman all seem ready to dive in, but "The Beguiled" stops them short. There's plenty of cunning boiling beneath the surface, but Coppola keeps a tight lid on it.
The actors pitch their roles perfectly: Kidman's breathy calm; Farrell's charm, just hinting at something dark within it; Fanning's way of prettily arranging herself, showing off Alice's newfound power; Dunst's quiet melancholy.
Audience Reviews for The Beguiled
Sofia Coppola reworks "The Beguiled" into a densely atmospheric slow-burn; a Southern-Gothic mood piece of expertly ratcheted tension and an absolutely wondrous, ominous sense of place. The technical side of this film is brilliant and is among Coppola's most accomplished works to date. Equally accomplished is the performances which are uniformly excellent. Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Kirsten Dunst shine alongside a wealth of young performers delivering work well beyond their years. I appreciate how well "The Beguiled" functions as a sort of multifaceted entertainment. I think it fully succeeds as a surface-level yarn (albeit one with an ending that can be met with mutters of "what was the point," which is exactly what happened at my screening) but can also be viewed and interpreted in a myriad ways. Whether you absorb Coppola's film as a feminist allegory, anti-feminist allegory, or any other, it never feels condescending or comes off as anything less than authentic. "The Beguiled" is one of the best films of the year.
NOTHING TO DECLARE - My Review of THE BEGUILED (2 1/2 Stars) I remember Don Siegel's original 1971 adaptation of Thomas Cullinan's novel, THE BEGUILED, for one very specific reason. Elizabeth Hartman, who co-starred with Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, hailed from my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio and received an Academy Award nomination in 1965 for her role as a blind woman opposite Sydney Poitier in A PATCH OF BLUE. She had very few film credits and, apparently in despair over her lack of film roles, took her own life in 1987. I've been haunted by her ever since. We've all been proud of our hometown success stories, but when things go terribly wrong, it stings. She exuded a fragile type of strength in her performances, similar to those of Nicole Kidman or Julianne Moore, and it has always felt like a sad loss that the world never got to experience more of her talent. The original film, a Civil War era gothic psycho-sexual thriller, told the story of Corporal McBurney, an injured Union soldier who gets rescued by a young southern girl and taken to her Southern all-female boarding school. The teachers and students engage in a rivalry for McBurney's affections and his intentions may or may not be pure. Everything about the film felt like Southern Gothic, over-the-top, "I do declare!" claptrap, yet it worked so well on that level. Employing multiple voiceovers and quick flashbacks, it felt like a juicy page-turner with Eastwood employing a feral sexuality rarely seen since. Many actors in the 70s, freed from the more staid, arch trappings of earlier decades, would instead go overboard when asked to push their emotions. THE BEGUILED either benefited or suffered from this, depending on how Southern you liked things cooked. All of this is to say, when you have a story like this, a little hamminess doesn't hurt. Writer/director Sofia Coppola, a filmmaker whose work has left an indelible impression on me, goes in the complete opposite direction with her adaptation, creating a perfect little bauble of a film which unfortunately doesn't seem to exist for any reason but to make a subtler, quieter version of the same story. She takes the material very seriously, and while this works on a performance level, and every single shot by cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd is a true work of art, it doesn't add up to anything particularly memorable or impactful. Yes, now I know how isolated and helpless women felt during the Civil War, and I loved that collectively they found their power. It feels like a realistic depiction of what would actually occur, but it lacks a little movie magic. I can't fault the actors. Nicole Kidman in particular, as headmistress Martha, gives a husky, focused performance. She does so much with a head turn, a glance, or a shockingly direct statement, and I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Kirsten Dunst, in the role originally played by Elizabeth Hartman, brings a deep well of passion and disappointment to her buttoned-up role as a woman who shows true feelings for McBurney. Elle Fanning also fares well here, perfectly embodying the confusion a person must have felt when an enemy soldier turned out to be so seductive. Colin Farrell, as McBurney, finds a touching vulnerability to his character but doesn't play up the sexuality as well as Eastwood. All told, it feels like a deliberate attempt to downplay the melodrama in favor of...well...what exactly is Coppola trying to say? In her prior films, Coppola presented a woozy, soft focus, dreamlike view of the young female experience. It's such a signature of hers that she's reached that enviable pantheon of directors whose work you can discern from simply watching a few frames. With THE BEGUILED, Coppola plays it relatively straight. She even mirrors some of the shots and dialogue from the original (the opening crane shot descending down the Spanish Moss to a young girl searching for mushrooms feels the same in both films). Despite the gorgeous imagery and the sometimes visceral intensity of McBurney's injuries, this new version just doesn't add up to much. I never felt inside the heads of her characters, which has been Coppola's signature. Everyone is good. The story builds to a certain level of horror. There's a resolution and then it ends. I wanted to know how the characters have been changed or affected by their experiences, but we get "just the facts ma'am". I suppose it makes for a more credible film, but sometimes you just want your movie stories to flail and moan.
Sofia Coppola creates an unsettling and slow-burning film that doesn't impress so much for its plot as it does for its evocative atmosphere - an effective combination of underlying tension and bursting sensuality that benefits from excellent performances, especially Nicole Kidman.
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