The Beguiled (2017): Unfortunately Let Down By Its Script
There’s been a few movies on the radar of cinephiles everywhere that gained traction at various film festivals earlier this year. Sofia Coppola’s latest film, The Beguiled, is one of those films. The movie has finally reached enough theaters for this critic to go see what it has to offer. The Beguiled appears to be creepy and horrific, but is it worth the time of genre enthusiasts? The following review will be spoiler free.
The Beguiled is directed by Sofia Coppola and stars notable actors such as Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning. We follow an injured soldier (Farrell) during the Civil War that has been taken in by women at a girls’ boarding school in the South. However, as the women take care of his wounds, sexual tension and dangerous rivalries occur, leading the headmaster (Kidman) to take action. As the tension slowly begins to build, it appears that Farrell may have more nefarious issues to handle than jealous women.
Once The Beguiled was screened to audiences at Cannes Film Festival, buzz quickly grew as the film approached its summer released date.
The film was selected to compete in the main competition section of the festival. This distinction is left for only the most competent films. Even more honors were bestowed on the film as Sofia Coppola won for best director, becoming only the second woman to do so.
Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, has slowly made a name for herself as a director, bursting onto the scenes with The Virgin Suicides and becoming even more prominent once Lost in Translation was seen by the masses. Although it must be tough being the daughter of the director of The Godfather, Sofia has undoubtedly made a nice career for herself. With The Beguiled, it appeared that Coppola was about to add another impressive film to her filmography.
Or so I thought…
What I Liked
It’s clear after watching this film that Sofia Coppola has a strong sense of what it takes to create atmosphere within a film.
The Beguiled takes place in the deep south, and you can feel it with every single frame. From the onset of the film we are spoiled with views of trees covered in Spanish moss and hazy sunsets that heighten the warm weather of the territory. Once Coppola adds the Civil War element to the film, you get a complete feel of the atmosphere.
Interestingly enough, The Beguiled has no score. Aside from a few strums of a string instrument every so often, the film is enveloped in silence. This is a very, very quiet film. But, that does not equate to a boring film.
When you combine the eerie silence with its Southern backdrop, you encounter a complete sense of the film’s tone. It’s rather impressive how Coppola allows you to get caught up in the film’s landscape without unnecessary dialogue. It’s most likely this trait for why Coppola received her award for best director.
What I Didn’t Like
However, where The Beguiled falters is in its script. I don’t believe this to be the case, but this film felt as if it was once a two and a half hour epic that was shrunk down during editing. The pieces are here for a fascinating film. But, there are serious flaws within the character motivations of each actor that are horribly underdeveloped.
The crux of this story relies on sexual tension. This tension is brought on by John (Farrell) after he enters their home. Unfortunately, relationships and feelings blossom out of thin air. Sometimes, I sat wondering if I missed a half hour of the film even though I saw each scene play out. Characters interact as if they’ve known each other for quite some time. The reality is that they’ve only known each other for a matter of days.
Each point of anxiety in The Beguiled relies on the bonds of each character to be strong and believable. That’s sadly not the case here. Each actor gives a strong performance, most notably Nicole Kidman as a stern, Southern woman. There’s just no meat to these characters.
Motivations are paper thin, causing you to wonder how in the world each character got to their present state of mind. Is it warranted that characters profess their love for each other after interacting for only the second time? I certainly don’t think so.
What I Didn’t Like…Continued
Kirsten Dunst is at the center of this trouble. She’s a lovely actress that once again proves her abilities in The Beguiled. The problem is that her character is one of the weaker ones that I’ve seen in quite some time.
Once Farrell’s character enters her life, she becomes dependent on him. Rather than prove to be independent, she falls for every single one of his gazes.
As the film progresses, some pretty reprehensible actions are committed. Yet, Dunst remains attached to Farrell’s hip, unwilling to let go of a damaged man that merely looked her way. It’s almost baffling how oddly characters act when faced with adversity.
This notion facilitates the fact that hardly any of these characters are very likable. In a film that revolves around tension, there’s a distinct lack of it.
The Beguiled had a lot of promise and boasts some very solid performances. But in the end, there’s just too much in the way of making this film a serious recommendation. It gets a C-. This film shoots to have hidden meaning like films such as It Comes at Night but never really gets to that point.
Although there are some grizzly elements to the movie, the trailers for the film unquestionably misrepresented the final product. While this did not affect my viewing experience (and my subsequent review), I would urge those looking to see this film to change their perceptions.
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