Movie Review: ‘The Beguiled’


Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, Oona Laurence

Plot: In the midst of the U.S. Civil War a wounded Yankee soldier gets taken in by an all girls seminary in the South. As his presence causes ripples among the staff and students he begins to toy with their affections.

the beguiled cast

Cast: Having not read the original novel or seen the Clint Eastwood starring original I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this film or where the story would end up. From the outset two things were clear – this was very much a Sofia Coppola film and these characters were not going to be the least bit sensible about their situation.

Coppola has not made any great alterations to her visual style. Like her debut feature The Virgin Suicides this film has a pastel, dream-like quality. The thick fog and drained colours makes the film a treat to look at, and it’s easy to see why Coppola has been attaining accolades for this project. This is a very well made movie, and represents the refinement of Coppola’s style.

the beguiled fanning

What lessens the impact is the story and the characters. It’s easy to pick the types as we’re introduced to them. Miss Martha Farnsworth (Kidman) is uptight and controlling, Alicia (Fanning) is rebellious and seductive and Edwina (Dunst) is skittish and naive. From there it’s pretty clear how things are going to play out, especially as Corporal John McBurney (Farrell) finds it ridiculously easy to manipulate them. It feels like they were sitting around waiting for him to turn up, because they fall into their given roles very quickly.

We also assumed that the conflict would escalate further than it did, that the women would turn against each other in a more drastic manner or McBurney would wind up at their mercy. Some situations get set up for a dramatic turn that doesn’t come. The film is certainly enjoyable to watch but has little lasting impact.

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In spite of the story lacking punch the visuals and performances are worth a look for those interested. Worth a shout out is young Australian performer Angourie Rice as Jane, an actor who has impressed us in These Final HoursThe Nice Guys and Jasper Jones. We hope to see her star continues to rise because she’s an A-Lister waiting to happen.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN

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