Directed by Sofia Coppola
By Christopher Spencer
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled stars Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning. Set in 1864, three years into the American Civil War, Kidman’s Miss Farnsworth runs an all-girl school in the Deep South. When a Northern soldier (Farrell) is brought to their door wounded and in need, the girls and women must decide whether he is kind or cruel, to aid him or dispose of him.
Coppola won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival this year for The Beguiled, an incredible honour to a pioneering filmmaker. I honestly think that the award was more honorary, rather awarding her for the work on this movie.
The Beguiled is well-directed, that much is clear, boasts delicate cinematography, and has strong performances from all involved, but it is a slight, slow and abrupt movie that doesn’t seem to have much meaning.
Kidman is better than she usually is as Miss Farnsworth, Dunst and Fanning well as two people competing with one another, and the younger actresses (such as Oona Laurence and Angourie Rice) playing the other students all commit some admirable work. Farrell as well is a charming and brutal figure, funny and dark, and is oddly the most complex and well-written out of anyone.
And that is where the biggest flaw lies in The Beguiled: the female characters are all weaker than bubble wrap. Sure, they have a dark redemption and work together well, but individually they hardly feel like actual characters. Coppola has written these girls and women to only ever talk about Farrell’s Northern soldier, never about their own feelings or problems. There isn’t any setup of who is who before Farrell comes into the picture, because he’s the second character introduced, so from then on EVERYTHING is about him.
The Beguiled has effective tone and atmosphere that keeps one engaged, but I didn’t receive much underneath the pretty locations and solid casting. Coppola is an ambitious filmmaker but she didn’t go far enough into what the story or characters of The Beguiled could have truly been, and that is unfortunate.