Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell
Rotten Tomatoes:78% Empire: 4 Stars
What has the director done before?
Sofia Coppola is one of the most decorated female directors out there, recently becoming the second women ever to win the best director prize at the 2017 Cannes film festival, her films tend to have a strong female lead, female focus and or female cast hence The Beguiled. Sofia Coppola previously directed The Bling Ring starring Emma Watson and also a Very Murray Christmas, which is pretty much all about Bill Murray, who previously worked with Sofia Coppola on her most well-known film Lost in Translation, which fully brought Sofia out of the shadow of her famous father, Francis Ford Coppola.
Sofia Coppola’s films have quite diverse story lines, making it hard to stick her to a genre; however, they usually focus on the female experience in the modern world, her last historical piece before The Beguiled was the alt-pop Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst. Sofia Coppola has a knack for working with the same actors for her films, and The Beguiled brings her back to collaborate with Kirsten Dunst, with whom she has a healthy cinematic bond, having appeared in four of Sofia Coppola films.
Sofia Cappola films are always brilliantly cast as they bring a mix of different actors together to create interesting interactions (e.g. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in Lost In Translation) she did this again with The Beguiled with a stellar cast of both newer talent and established Hollywood names such as Nicole Kidman and Collin Farrell.
What’s the history behind the film?
There is a lot of history behind The Beguiled not only is it set during the American civil war, but it is also a remake of a 1971 film, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood developed from the novel of the same name by Thomas P. Cullinan. In the 2017 version of the film Coppola wanted to express the movie from the female perspective, which is what she is best at and you get a good sense of the female experience of repression and tension of being in a seminary.
Was there any controversy about the film?
It is 2017, and you can’t step out your house without being criticised for doing it the wrong way and The Beguiled, is no exception from this phenomenon and has been criticised for being whitewashed with an all-white cast. Granted that whitewashing is a very real and dangerous reality in Hollywood, the controversy began because in the 1966 novel of The Beguiled, contained a black female slave as a supporting character. Sofia Coppola removed this character from the film, stating that she omitted the character, who was a stereotypical slave, who couldn’t speak proper English, out of respect and also worries about representation. Coppola didn’t want to depict an African American character in a way, that was stereotypical and disrespectful, which is a very fair and understandable argument. However, you could probably count on three fingers the number of minority actors Coppola has worked with, which is an observation that she should be brought to her attention. It is a good thing when a director is challenged with hard topics such as whitewashing as it develops the conversation, but perhaps they don’t need to be put on the crucifix.
Who gave the best performance?
There was a stellar cast in The Beguiled, well-established actors such as Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst supporting the newer and younger talent, Elle Fanning and Oona Lawrence who made up the girls in the seminary. However, it was hard not to take your attention of Colin Farrell who had his natural Irish accent and displayed a whole range of emotions from charming flirt to broken soldier; he gave the best performance as you were able to empathise with his character, on multiple levels. Colin is making a quite the comeback with roles in Hollywood block busters such as Fantastic Beasts; he will also be in Tim Burton’s remake of Dumbo.
Could it have been better?
The Beguiled was a solid film, with a well-written script that sort of feels like a play, as it is set in one location, the Madewood Plantation House, which was built in 1864, and was also where Beyoncé shot parts of her Formation video (an important addition). The Beguiled could have been better if there was more context into the historical background, more scenes about the civil war.One does wonder if adding the black characters to the film could have helped crystallised how the world was changing for the southern girls, who were probably supporters of slavery and were living in a house once run by slaves and are now coping without them. On the other hand, having the film being set in one location and the girls being isolated from other people possibly adds to the story, as you as the watcher are also stuck in the house with girls, so towards the end, you feel claustrophobic and wanting to escape the drama of the house.