Movie Review: The Beguiled (2017)

A tepid Southern-gothic melodrama about a wounded Union soldier harbored in a small Confederate girls’ school during the Civil War, Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled (D+) explores the effects of an intrusive and intriguing outside force on a tight-knit group. It’s part hot and bothered but mostly “why’d she bother?” as Coppola pours on curiously long camera gazes at plantation columns and Spanish moss. Colin Farrell doesn’t really have a prayer in the thankless role of the charming invalid, and Nicole Kidman comes across as campy with a touch of trampy as head mistress of the schoolgirls. As a strange relationship rhombus begins to emerge, there emerges virtually none of the payoff for which one could hope. Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning are distinguished primarily by being pale and wearing poofy dresses and pearls. The cinematography technique is somewhere between Vaseline on the lens, a light candlelight flicker through gauze or an Instagram filter called Sepia Baroque. With set, soundtrack and staging laid bare of most frills, it was surprising there were fairly few twists and turns of note. The premise was here for a barn burner of a tale, but the fuse never ignites.

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