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THE BEGUILDED: a story about women and man


Sofia Coppola's The Beguilded is a slow-paced drama about a group of girls and women who try to lead a proper live inside their own small community. When outside Colin Farrel-shaped forces intervene in the their pattern of living, things change on a variety of levels. This might not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're into trying to figure out a director and the rhythm of things, it's an awarding experience.

"“The Beguiled” runs for ninety-four minutes, and even those feel like a stretch. As with Coppola’s début, “The Virgin Suicides” (1999), character is swallowed up in mood. Elle Fanning is too ethereal to be a flirt; Nicole Kidman, drifting past and asking, “Would you care for a digestif, Corporal?,” lacks the matriarchal vim that Geraldine Page unleashed for Siegel; and, as for Colin Farrell, somebody appears to have bled him of all menace. Certainly, there is nothing here to match the crisp definition of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, who, in “Lost in Translation” (2003), stood out so clearly, and with such a funky need for one another, against the jet-lagged atmosphere. That remains Coppola’s finest hour, and, by her standards, the new work is amazingly unhip—touched with a gruesomeness that makes you giggle (“Go to the smokehouse and get me the saw, now”), yet too indolent to summon the energy for camp. In studying Homo impeditus, the blocked or hobbled man, she aligns herself with “Rear Window” (1954) and “Misery” (1990), but those movies compensated with the wit of their imaginative roaming. “The Beguiled,” by comparison, is little more than a claustrophile’s dream. If your cage is gilded enough, why bother to flee?" (The New Yorker)


"The first half of the movie is decent enough, because Coppola, instead of portraying the school as a collection of lonely harpies going crazy from sexual denial, instead shows them to be mostly bored. The war is dangerous and scary, but mostly it has cut them off from life. They’re excited by McBurney’s presence because he’s a sexy firecracker thrown into the doldrums of war, and one way or another they all want to touch that crackling candle. Kidman makes Martha plausibly conflicted — a part of her wants to get close to McBurney, and she also wants to get him healed and out the door — while Alicia (Elle Fanning), the mischievous teenage brat, keeps flashing her saucy smile at him. There’s a good chuckle to be had in Fanning’s delivery of the line, “I hope you like apple pie!” [...] Sofia Coppola has long been a filmmaker who divides critics and audiences. I count myself as a Coppola believer (I even liked her Hollywood art ramble “Somewhere”), but this may be the first film she has made in which her essential personality as a director gets buried under the movie she’s making. She has “feminized” “The Beguiled” to the point that she’s really just pummeled it into the shape of a prestige movie, one that ends with a telling tableau of the film’s female characters posed in formation, like some Civil War sorority of the newly woke. Coppola, in attempting to elevate the material, doesn’t seem to realize that “The Beguiled” is, and always was, a pulp psychodrama. Now it’s pulp with the juice squeezed out of it." (Variety)


"Coppola and her cast express the softly shifting chemistry within the school building with consummate control and wit. Scenes are spritzed with minuscule double entendres, telling micro-glances and sly social manoeuvring – there’s a wonderful sequence in which the schoolgirls each claim responsibility for some element of an apple pie McBurney has enjoyed. It’s the kind of mood that brings out the best in Kidman, whose performance is deliciously subtle, but with a lemony edge of camp that allows her to twist an entire scene with the arch of an eyebrow, a genteel French aside, or a microscopic parting of her lips. Perhaps best of all is Dunst, whose softly heartbreaking performance keeps the film lashed to reality as it skulks, late on, back into the woods and towards McBurney’s reckoning. Still, it’s every inch a group achievement, and the film’s best scenes are its ensemble ones: prayers before bedtime, musical recitals, meals by candlelight. In their softly multi-coloured gowns, designed by Stacey Battat, the women are arrayed like flavours in an ice cream counter, and Farrell the boy with his nose pressed greedily to the glass. " (The Guardian)

Tags:   Sofia Coppola, thriller, drama, film news, The Beguilded, colin

Related:   The Beguiled



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