The Beguiled is a drama written and directed by Sofia Coppola, which won her Best Director at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas P. Cullinan, the story is set in an all girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War. Upon the discovery of a wounded Union corporal, the girls’ sheltered lives are turned upside down as this tale of desire, manipulation, and femininity unfolds.
The suspense and thriller-like scenes shown in the trailer, you soon discover, are put on the back burner until the very last minutes of the film. Often times playful and comedic, the rest is a slow telling of women overcome by their sexual desires, proving the classic ‘all the exciting parts were in the trailer.’
The film does prove itself to be a feminist tale as the women rebel against the virtues they are bound by. When the drama kicks into high gear, the “vengeful bitches” use their femininity to create a subtle, and delicately violent resolution that leave the viewer as satisfied as the traditional blood and guts.
Coppola creates a beautiful picture of an otherwise gruesome war; Everything from its costuming and limited score, to its cinematography, creates an engaging atmosphere. The sheltered lifestyle and the isolation of the school from the rest of the world is emphasized by its foggy surroundings and the absence of music in many scenes. The standout of the film is the cinematography’s way of intensifying its visually stunning setting. Every shot is composed beautifully, creating a setting that feels fresh and new, yet stays with the classic 1864 style. The change from bright to dull texture visually foreshadows the detour the story will eventually take.
Every actress in this film delivers with fantastic performances, but the standouts are, of course, the three principal leads: Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. However, despite their praise, the characters themselves stray too close to becoming as dull as the school’s often foggy exterior. The characterization often lacks depth, and none of them are more than one or two prominent traits shown through how differently they deal with Colin Farrell’s Corporal McBurney. With Farrell’s forceful performance, his character is the one who develops the most throughout the film.
The Beguiled is a southern gothic tale about why it’s not a good idea to invite strangers into your home. As comedically ludicrous as it is to see these women go gaga over Colin Farrell, the film lacks the “edge of your seat” reaction that its trailer depicts, proving that some films really aren’t as good as their trailer.
(Featured Image: The Beguiled, Focus Features)