Sofia Coppola has delivered her psychosexual, tension-filled thriller, The Beguiled. This is vastly different from many of the other films she has directed such as; Lost in Translation, Somewhere, and The Virgin Suicides. Although, while this film is different and new, that does not necessarily mean it’s fantastic. Based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan, The Beguiled is an interesting psychosexual suspense film, aimed at making you think. However, there are both pros and cons with this one.
Colin Farrell plays Corporal McBurney, a Yankee solider during the Civil War who abandoned a battle out of sheer panic. Found wounded, he is taken in to an all-female boarding school where they at first reluctantly give him the hospitality he needs. Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), the woman in charge, Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), and Alicia (Elle Fanning), take care of him while the sexual tension grows slowly by each scene. The tension leads to promises, which lead to despair. The Beguiled is not a film where women battle each other for a stud’s admiration and good looks. There is enough disturbing and distressing material tossed around to make you uncomfortable.
From the very beginning as he is taken in, you can feel the sexual tension rising. Characters play it off as if they aren’t attracted to him, especially since he is a Yankee and is not welcome. However, that tension builds and lets face it, feelings are hurt. One of the most striking aspects that stands out is the brilliant performances by Dunst, Kidman, and Fanning. Every eye movement, and gaze into the Corporal’s, is a sign and tells us more than words truly can. Some gazes were subtle yet sexual, while others were unbelievably blatant. Coppola’s brilliant directing, along with the superb performances, are the reason for this film’s success and enjoyability.
The film is beautifully shot, reminding me of Stanley Kubrick’s visual masterpiece, Barry Lyndon. Almost every shot feels as though it is taken right from a painting. The dark lighting and the dimly lit candles add to this, making for a stunning visual experience.
The Beguiled has a dark atmosphere and tone to it, that takes away any sense of a romantic feeling. But this is a good thing. It leaves for some tension and suspense that the film needs, although it still does not have enough to make the plot as riveting as it could have been. While the idea of the plot seems interesting and engaging, there is something missing within it that would bring it to its fullest potential. Perhaps it is the film’s predictability. Especially towards the end, the film seems to lose its sense of wonder and suspense, leaving viewers unimpressed.
However, that is not the lasting impression. This film is well done enough to be remembered, predictable enough to not be rewatchable, but suspenseful enough to be enjoyed.
Overall Grade: B