The Beguiled

July 2, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Posted in 2017 | Leave a comment

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After yesterday’s whirling dervish that was “Baby Driver,” this slow burn was a shock to the system. Based on the 1971 film of the same name, starring Clint Eastwood, “The Beguiled” shows the unraveling of a group of women and girls when a man enters their world. It is the 1860s and the American Civil War is raging. Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) runs a girls’ boarding school in Virginia. Most have left to return home, but Martha and one teacher, Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), are left to care for the half dozen girls who have no place to go. While out picking mushrooms one day, the youngest girl comes across a wounded Yankee soldier. She brings him back to the house, where Martha feels it is her Christian duty to help heal him. Though the girls are reticent to have an evil “blue belly” in the house at first, that fear becomes fascination and trouble begins to brew. Director Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation,” “The Bling Ring”) lets the tension build slowly. Kidman, Dunst and Elle Fanning (as the oldest girl) are masterful actors and can convey an array of feelings with just a glance. Coppola lets the story unfold (or perhaps unravel) at its own pace. There was a lot to like here, particularly the strength of all the performances. And I have to give Coppola credit for taking on what looked to be such an obviously sexist film (watch the original hilarious trailer here) and giving it a modern sensibility. But the story never really drew me in. Nothing felt at stake, perhaps because I never felt engaged with any of the characters, except the youngest girl. For a story that seemed to be so much about intimacy and need, it felt oddly distant. There were some beautiful scenes, including the final one, but, without the depth to back them up, all of the those scenes ultimately fell flat.

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