The Beguiled

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The Civil War is the back drop to the new film from director Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled, and the conflict is not just between the North and the South.

Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is a Union soldier wounded and alone in the forest outside of a girls’ school in Virginia.  He is found by Amy (Oona Laurence), one of the few remaining students at this school.  She helps him back where the Headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and one of the teachers Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) have to decide what they are going to do with him.

Meanwhile, the presences of the handsome and mysterious stranger causes the other students to adjust their actions and behaviors in hopes of catching the attention of Corporal McBurney.  Of these other girls, Alicia (Elle Fanning) has her own ideas of what to do about the soldier.

As the soldier’s wounds heal, he begins to bond with the all of the women in the locale and they begin to be unsure of what they want to happen.

The Beguiled turned out very different than what the trailers had led me to believe.  The trailers sold me on a revenge aspect that really is not in place in this film.  It does go dark near the end but some of the motivations of the characters are still not what I expected.  In fact, the choices made me feel more uncomfortable and seemed to be more questionable than I thought they would.

There is a lot of mood in this film, and much of the story builds slowly.  Because it is more of a character piece, that slow burn does work reasonably well.  There is always the sense that something is about to blow through each of the scenes here.

The performances were all solid, but I really enjoyed the performance of Oona Laurence as the youngest girl in the school and the first of the girls to find McBurney.  I really enjoyed the relationship between these two characters and I would have liked to have seen more of it.  Even near the end when this relationship is put to the test, I think I wanted more between the man and the little girl.  I can’t go into it without spoiling results, but I feel like this relationship missed an opportunity near the end of the film.

I also wanted more from Elle Fanning.  Her character is a major plot turner but I needed more to accept what had happened as reality.

Nicole Kidman, however, was really good as the cold and close-to-the-vest Miss Martha.  I believed that she was a person who was constantly putting her own life on hold for the betterment of all of these young girls.  Colin Farrell was solid, and he always gave me the impression that he was more than what he was showing to these women.  However, since I was going off the trailers, I might have been reading more into his character than actually was there.  I certainly do not think that he deserved the end result that he received.

There was quite a bit of humor in this film, surprisingly so and that worked very well.  The humor is certainly of the dark variety, which works in this setting.

The Beguiled is a good film with solid performances.  It is a slow build, which some may find boring, but the strong characters and beautiful shot scenes keep it moving along.  It is also not too long, coming in at just over 90 minutes.  I may have wanted some more in some areas, but The Beguiled makes due with what it has.

3.2 stars

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