The Beguiled

It's 1864. We are in an exclusive girls' school in Virginia. The Civil War is devastating our young country but the students are kept away from the blood and the ruin of that outside world. These sheltered girls, along with their constrained faculty, will soon declare their own private war.

Director Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation"), who specializes in understated tension, tweaks the late Albert Maitz 1971 script which was based on Thomas Cullinan's novel, to once again show us what happens when a wounded Union soldier (played by Clint Eastwood in the original) finds himself at their mercy...or are they at HIS mercy?

Part of Coppola's cast:
  • Colin Farrell ("True Detective") Corporal McBurney is wounded and most of these females (students and faculty) want to help. In no time at all he has charmed each one.
  • Nicole Kidman ("Big Little Lies") Miss Martha is in charge. She is a capable, controlled Christian, but she is also practical. The faint thumps of cannon are heard in the distance throughout our story.
  • Kirsten Dunst ("Hidden Figures") Edwina is convinced that she and our charming corporal are meant for each other, but what in the world is Alicia doing?
  • Elle Fanning ("Trumbo") Alicia is a precocious student, mature for her age and becoming more rebellious by the day.
As the unusual male presence is felt, sexual tensions instantly begin to mount. I resent watching stereotypical female behavior, each turning on the other in order to be chosen by the male. Surely Coppola has better sense. In fact, most of my criticism is leveled at her. The cinematography is lovely and the cast is uniformly excellent but the abrupt mood changes, the awkwardly stilted script and the failure to create an effective ensemble, I lay at the director's feet. The screening audience snickered at many of the lines and I never for a moment forgot that this was a movie.

This is rated "R" for the violent sex...nearly a rape...although it was pointed out that the woman was willing. Also, there is a nasty wound on our hero's leg; many in the audience gasped at the sight. Those of you with hearing problems should seek out a theater with closed caption devices or wait for the DVD; much of the dialogue is murmured.

YOYO (You're On Your Own)
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Here is a trailer:
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