WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard
WRITER(S): Sophia Coppola (screenplay); Thomas Cullinan (novel)
Helping John limp back to the seminary, Amy introduces him to Miss Martha, her schoolteacher assistant Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst) and her young classmates Emily (Emma Howard), Jane (Angourie Rice), Marie (Addison Riecke) and Alicia (Elle Fanning). But despite Amy’s excitement at having a new friend, Miss Martha, Edwina and the rest of the young ladies have a decision to make: Do they let their newfound enemy stranger stay and recuperate or do they turn him over to the passing Confederate soldiers at the first chance they get where he will be imprisoned or, more likely, killed.
Deciding it to be good Christian charity, Miss Martha and the girls decide to nurse John back to health and then will let him go on his way. But John is no ordinary guest – he’s handsome, he’s charming and he’s more than happy to stay instead of returning to the battlefield.
Since he’s a Union soldier in a Confederate land in a house full of young ladies who haven’t been around a man in a long time, this is surely going to turn out to be ok, right? We’ll see …
SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? A film that goes from feeling like an adult movie minus the actual sex to a bit of an overtly dramatic drama in its last 20 minutes with some characters making some very questionable choices, The Beguiled is an interesting film … Just how interested each individual watching it, however, remains to be seen.
The Beguiled‘s first hour is a great build of sexual tension; it’s almost like watching an adult film where none of the actors have sex, are actually acting and tease as if they are going to do it, but then they stop just before they do. Whereas Dunst delivers a nuanced performance as a shy, do-I-deserve-love-schoolteacher, Fanning’s overtly interested Alicia plays well against Kidman’s reserved, I shall pay no attention to this man despite him trying to break down the wall of personal space I have built around myself. Likewise, the performances of the film’s younger female cast members show a commendable amount of skill as being charmed by Farrell’s overtly-polite soldier, Laurence in particular as a young woman who clearly views him as a father figure.
Where The Beguiled (the 2017 version, mind you – SPOILER ALERT: I have not seen the 1971 version) falters a bit, however, is in areas that are not the cast nor writer/director Sophia Coppola’s fault as the actions of certain characters well, just don’t make sense. I mean, you can see people doing the things certain characters do, but – like the average cast member on a reality show – you’ll simply be flabbergasted that they do them and think things are going to turn out well. Then again, the idea of playing off the film’s title (who is beguiling who, after all?) The Civil War is really just a bit of a backdrop for the story, for this is a story about deception, lust and people taking power in a situation when they feel like their hand has been forced to do so. The examination of rivalry among women over suitors doesn’t exist here at all, however, so that part of the 1971 take on Thomas Cullinan’s novel is skipped in favor of more of a tense thriller where you know something is going to go wrong; you’re just not sure of what and whom it will all affect.
For a film with quality performances, a very subtle take on women’s empowerment and soap opera outrageousness at times, you could do a lot worse than letting someone beguile you into thinking this movie isn’t an interesting watch.