Review: "The Beguiled" (2017)
Title: The Beguiled (2017)
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Director: Sofia Coppola
Stars (Primary Actors): Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning
Bias: Although there are many Sofia Coppola films I really dislike (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, that random Bill Murray Christmas Special), I couldn’t help but be extremely excited for this film. Maybe it was the allure of Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning together in one film, or maybe it was just the hype surrounding Coppola as a respected director, but I was counting down the days until I could see this. I hate westerns, I don’t care about the south, and I knew it was problematic going in, but something deep inside of me knew I had to see this film.
In a Nutshell: It’s three years into the Civil War and five students are at the Martha Farnsworth seminary for girls with Miss Martha herself (Nicole Kidman) and one teacher named Ms. Edwina (Kirsten Dunst). While out picking mushrooms one day, one of the girls comes upon an injured union soldier and they take him in. What begins as them doing a kindness for the enemy soon escalates into a full-on war of their own.
The Critique: Would it be a Sofia Coppola movie without some controversy? Accusations of whitewashing (yet again) this movie are what most discussions online have centered around. As the film is an adaptation of a 1966 novel (and a 1971 film of the same name starring Clint Eastwood), Coppola’s unfortunate decision to cut out the one African American character from the original story has gotten a lot of deserved heat. Her fascination with white women and femininity is no surprise, seeing as she’s basically made a career out of it. But deliberately cutting out the one black character and robbing a black actress of a pay day is inexcusable and put a damper on this film.
Controversy aside, there are certainly other issues with this film. While each shot of the film could be a Vogue shoot of its own, visuals have never been Coppola’s issue. I typically don’t have a problem with her style-over-substance approach, but when she’s adapting someone else’s work, I think more adherence to the subject matter would have helped. Elle Fanning’s character Alicia is one of the most interesting in the film, and more character development for her would have been great to see.
Shout-Outs: Nicole Kidman is spot on as always with her role in this film. Almost every actor on screen came ready to play and they all deliver.
Choice Quote: “You vengeful bitches!”
To Go, Rent or Netflix: Seeing this film on the biggest screen possible can only enhance the experience. Because the visuals are its strong suit, seeing the beautiful New Orleans landscape on the big screen is transformative.