Set during the Civil War, The Beguiled tells the story of a wounded Union officer (Colin Farrell) who is found and nursed to health by the inhabitants of a Virginian girls’ school, headed by the stern but compassionate Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman). As his stay becomes more prolonged, tensions rise in the household between the students, particularly the reserved Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst) and the rebellious Alicia (Elle Fanning). Before long, love, lust, and horror takes hold…
A Powerhouse of Talent
Writer/director Sofia Coppola has adapted both the novel by Thomas Cullinan and director Don Siegel’s 1971 film into something that feels classic yet fresh. The film looks absolutely gorgeous in an old-fashioned way, but it has enough of a modern eye to it that it doesn’t feel stuffy or outdated. So much of that is bolstered by an incredibly tense story about desire, manipulation, and femininity. The entire cast is firing on all cylinders, making every single scene sizzle with either sly humor, subtle sexiness, or nail-biting suspense. This is a superbly acted film, with every single performer at the top of their game. If one or more of the cast members doesn’t nab Oscar nominations, it will be an outright crime.
Give It Some Time
To be fair, The Beguiled is a leisurely paced film. It takes its time getting you into this war-torn world and making you see life through the eyes of its many female characters. In this way, it would almost make for a dark double feature with Wonder Woman! It’s also worth noting that Colin Farrell’s character is a delightful deconstruction of the modern “nice guy” persona that many people know is a sham. He’s just a fedora away from being a stereotype, but the movie is examining what kind of person is actually like that, and the hidden anger and masculine horror they withhold.
This is going to be one that divides people for sure. It’s got that stageplay feeling that many viewers might find too slow or unexciting. Those people would be missing out on a ton. There are tiny bits of humor from the younger actresses that help keep the film from being too dour. There’s also the expert performances from the seasoned actors who can tell you exactly what they’re thinking with the simplest of looks. Not to mention the undeniably steamy atmosphere of the entire film. The Beguiled requires you to relax and breathe in the film. Once you match its wavelength, you’ll be along for the ride. And it’s a hell of a ride.
Is The Beguiled Good?
It’s a triumph in every way. Coppola’s film is beautiful to gaze at, darkly funny, nerve-wracking, and features excellent actors putting in some of the best work of their career. Accept the film’s measured pacing and you’ll be thoroughly rewarded. In all honesty, The Beguiled is a serious contender for the best film of the year. Don’t miss it.