Film Review by Kam Williams
Southern Belles Vie for Union Soldier’s Affections in Sofia Coppola’s Sublime Tale of Seduction
The Beguiled is a Civil War saga based on the best seller of the same name by the late novelist/playwright Thomas Cullinan (1919-1995). The sublime tale of seduction was first adapted to the screen in 1971 as a melodramatic revenge flick starring Clint Eastwood. This relatively-refined remake was directed by Sofia Coppola whose efforts were richly rewarded at Cannes where she became only the second woman to win Best Director in the history of the festival.
The story is set in 1864 at a Virginia boarding school for girls run by prim Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) with the help of equally-proper Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst). They have five students entrusted to their care ranging in age from prepubescent to the late teens.
At the point of departure, the sounds of battle are audible off in the distance. The raging conflict cuts a sharp contrast to the serenity of the idyllic campus where we find Amy (Oona Laurence) foraging in the forest for wild mushrooms.
She stumbles upon a wounded Union soldier hiding in the woods. Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) has been felled by a bullet to the leg. The innocent adolescent instinctively brings the him back to the mansion, only to be criticized by an elder classmate (Angourie Rice) for rescuing a “dangerous enemy.”
After initially issuing a stern warning herself that “You are a most unwelcome visitor,” their ordinarily icy headmistress inexplicably melts. She allows the ailing adversary to remain on the premises without even informing the Confederate army of his presence.
Personally assuming the responsibility of nursing their guest back to health, man-starved Martha soon finds herself swooning for the solicitous stranger. Trouble is, John proves to be quite the Casanova, knowing just the right words to surreptitiously charm the pants off each of the females one-by-one.
Of course, the cat’s eventually out of the bag, and his collective spell is broken. And by the time the heartbroken lasses are through with him, he probably wishes he’d simply surrendered to the Rebels rather than seek refuge.
Hell hath no fury like some Southern belles scorned!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality
Running time: 93 minutes
Production Studio: American Zoetrope
Distributor: Focus Features
To see a trailer for The Beguiled, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBoLK5z_FHo