Directed by Sofia Coppola (Maria Antoinette, The Bling Ring) and starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, The Beguiled looked to be a good film. The story follows Nicole as Headteacher Miss Martha at a girls’ school in Virginia, where due to the Civil War there are currently only 5 students – the eldest being played by Elle Fanning – and one teacher, Kirsten Dunst as Edwina. The unexpected arrival of a wounded Union Soldier, Corporal McBurney – Colin Farrell, leads to jealousy and betrayal amongst the women as they fight over the Corporal’s attention.
The story line looked to have a great potential and with the film being sold as a Drama/Thriller, I was very intrigued. However there was little promotion for the film over here, even though the cast are top actors, and now I know why…
Unfortunately The Beguiled really doesn’t have a lot to it. The story line is slow, and quite frankly nothing really happens until the last twenty minutes or so and then it just gets plain weird. There are a lot of scenes in which there are no dialogue, just shots of various characters doing activities – sometimes having no real importance to the plot – and whilst these shots are visually stunning, the film is filled with far too many of them so the beauty of them gets taken away as we are shown yet another misty shot of some trees.
I honestly don’t know why this is being classed as a thriller, there is nothing remotely thrilling about the entire film! The opening scene has a slight horror feel to it as we see a young girl picking mushrooms in the woods, with the music and the way the camera follows her giving the sense that someone is going to jump out at any second…but that is literally the only time you will be on the edge of your seat. The rest of the film you will probably be looking at your watch hoping it’s nearly over, or else trying to make sense of what is supposedly going on!
The dullness of the film has nothing to do with the cast, who all make a good go at their roles. Colin Farrell is delightful as the wounded solider thrown in amongst the women, but then I can never resist an Irish accent! Nicole Kidman pulls off the strict but protective headmistress, keeping the young girls in check but always having their best interests at heart. Kirsten Dunst’s character is the one that really catches the Corporal’s attention (not entirely sure why as she doesn’t smile during the entire film), and Elle Fanning, as the oldest student and desperate for male attention, sets her sights on the Corporal and will stop at nothing to claim him for herself.
The Beguiled could have done with delving into the characters a bit more, showing us the different women’s attractions towards the Corporal instead of merely hinting. We are shown enough to get the general idea but then something will happen to make us question what is actually going on. Maybe this is the ‘thrilling’ part of the film, maybe we aren’t supposed to really know what everyone is feeling, but to be honest it just makes you lose interest in the film.
Overall, The Beguiled is definitely not one I’ll be seeing again and isn’t one I’d recommend. Honestly haven’t a clue what the film was really about, and things only got going towards the end and even then the story line went off into a totally different direction and everything went a bit mad. Yes there are some lovely shots of the country and thankfully the film is only 90 minutes but it’s not worth the bother even for such a great cast!