Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is as atmospheric as they come.
Did anyone expect Sofia Coppola to follow up her slice of bubblegum pop The Bling Ring with a remake of a 1970’s Clint Eastwood obscurity? No, me neither.
Coppola, who is known for her mood heavy, music laden films, has almost completely stripped back her style and gone full gothic melodrama.
Colin Farrell plays the wounded civil war solider brought in from the cold to recuperate in an all girls school led by Nicole Kidman. The girls, including Sofia MVP Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, lead a fairly sheltered existence and all become infatuated with the admittedly first off charming bedridden Corporal McBurney.
The Beguiled is high on mood, but light on plot.
Perhaps the biggest deviation from the source material is acknowledging what these women are doing out there all on their own, with the audience left to themselves to understand what brought them all together in the first place and why they chose to live in such isolation.
There isn’t so much a plot here as just spending time watching the girls trip over themselves to catch the twinkle in the corporal’s eye. Carefully organised candlelit dinners, post meal sing-alongs keep both the humour flowing and the sexual tension at boiling point.
Veterans Farrell and Kidman both perform at the top of their game here, with Farrell oozing his devilish charm and Kidman almost underplaying with her conflicted headmistress, ably supported by the wonderful female supporting cast, all given their moment to shine – especially when the rivalries begin.
It’s hard to discuss the film’s third act without almost completely giving the game away, but rest assured a delicious third act shift in tone keeps the audience absolutely engaged until the last frame.
It’s Coppola… of course it looks gorgeous.
Cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd lays the atmosphere on thick with the murky surroundings. You can practically feel the sweat dripping off the screen, and the constant use of candlelight in turn makes the house itself a member of the acting ensemble.
If The Beguiled has a main failing it’s that it doesn’t push its pulp heart even further than it could go. It comes up short when it could have gone full blown horror, pushing Coppola into uncharted territory.
This is a solid entry into an already impressive filmography for Coppola and I’m very curious to see what path she takes us down next.