Movie Review: The Beguiled (2017)
The remake of the 1971 film, The Beguiled, premiered at Cannes this year and secured a limited theatrical release at the end of June. This adaptation was directed by Sofia Coppola, which also secured her the award for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. This adaptation features Nicole Kidman as Martha Farnsworth, Colin Farrell as Corporal John McBurney, Kirsten Dunst as schoolteacher Edwina Morrow, and Elle Fanning as the oldest student in the school, Alicia.
Set in Virginia during the Civil War, the film begins with one of the young students, Amy, discovering a wounded Union soldier in the woods near the school. Corporal John McBurney has injured his leg in battle and since deserted. She helps him back to the girls school where she resides, and though he is a Union soldier, the headmistress decides to help him. She cleans his wound, and instantly, all the students are enraptured with the Corporal. He flirts with Martha and Edwina, and even the youngest of the students enjoys dressing up in his presence. As he heals, he helps tend the garden at the school, but as he recuperates, Martha warns that he'll have to leave soon. However, when he sneaks into the oldest student's bedroom one night, the attitudes of everyone begin to turn.
So, I'll begin by saying that I was sincerely excited for this film. I think Nicole Kidman is one of the best actresses around, and as usual, her performance does not disappoint. I also enjoyed Colin Farrell as the Corporal, who was pleasantly charming through a majority of the film. The casting for the younger girls was also fitting, and Oona Laurence's performance as Amy was a true standout. Her presence as the compassionate girl who loves nature was a welcome one.
In addition to some of these performances, I was impressed with the cinematography. The quality of the shots makes one feel as if they were in the Civil War era, and the coloring aides that sensation. The low hanging branches and muted greens also make the setting complete and lend an ominous tone to the story.
While I appreciate all of these moving pieces, though, I have to admit that I found myself bored throughout the film. As someone who enjoys a lot of historically based films, I have a high tolerance for slower paced stories, but this stretched my abilities. Events move painstakingly slow, and by the time the main events of the movie happen, I felt like the tension was either not well established or no longer present. There were large portions of story without music, which would have helped set the tone, and I found the logic and actions of some of the characters to be jarring and not serving the story well. Also, Elle Woods' character was cringeworthy as she overtly hits on the man that she initially despised. I realize that every film is subjective. So, while there were aspects of the film I could appreciate, I felt like there were quite a few things lacking overall.