The Beguiled

Jun 28, 2017

Just because Colin's so cute doesn't mean he won't have trouble in a house full of females.

The Beguiled

Image courtesy of IMDb.

Grade: B

Director: Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)

Screenplay:  Coppola, based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan

Cast: Colin Farrell (In Bruges), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 33 min

by John DeSando

“It's seems the enemy... it's not what we believed.” Martha (Nicole Kidman)

I confess to a weakness for the gothic, ironic, and societal decay. Throw in a girls' school like the one in Picnic at Hanging Rock, replete with emerging girl/women and impregnable mores; I’m at home with that melodrama and mood.  

Ready-made for me, then, is Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, remade from an early version starring Clint Eastwood, a cautionary tale told in the South during The Civil War, where the enemy is not always a soldier, even if he comes in a Union uniform. When wounded union soldier Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) is treated at the decaying girls’ school, headed by strong-headed Martha, and some of the girls and a teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) find him an attractive curiosity, trouble is only an afternoon tea away.

Although it looks like a sweet setup for a handsome corporal, these ladies are ready to test his manhood and Southern independence in figurative and visceral ways. Like Picnic, the metaphors are not hidden far, and the twist at the end is fully Serlingesque because it carries the moral force of acceptable norms and the iniquity of revenge. Yes, this is Southern gothic done well.

Besides Coppola’s certifiable interest in feminine beauty and it evanescence, the tale is genuinely suspenseful because we begin to see the ladies  not as vulnerable as we once thought.  We realize the war between North and South is not just muskets and slaves. Indeed, except for a passing comment, Coppola keeps the abiding slavery cause of the horrific struggle to the side while she explores the machinations of desire and revenge.

In other words, The Beguiled will beguile you while you try to figure who exactly is beguiled here, soldier or ladies. Maybe both? You are entering the Twilight Zone . . . .

“You're our most unwelcome visitor, and we do not propose to entertain you.” Martha

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at