Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Movie Review: The Beguiled (2017)

Sofia Coppola delivers a dark and suspenseful Southern Gothic horror film that explores the genre and feminine charm. When Amy (Oona Laurence) stumbles across the wounded Union soldier Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) in the woods, she brings the man back to her school for girls to help him recover from his leg wound. Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) runs the school that has scenes the departure of its slaves and most of the students. The last remaining teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) wishes to leave this place but with the Civil War raging nearby sees no hope of escape. The young and restless Alicia (Elle Fanning) is especially vicious when she first meets the wounded soldier, telling him about the warning symbol of a blue cloth that will bring the Confederate soldiers. The corporal admits that he is cowardly and jumps at the chance for brandy.

Amy seems to think the best of her discovery and Martha takes the man in, sewing up his wound and washing his skin. Edwina also takes a particular attraction to the man especially when McBurny awakes and compliments her in his thick Irish accent. Other girls like Jane (Angourie Rice) don't trust the Yankee presence and tells tales of the awful deeds by Union soldiers. Martha thinks about turning him in but when Amy and Edwina appeal to her Christian nature, they decide to allow him to stay until he recovers. The new presence changes the behavior of the women as Edwina starts dressing up more and young Marie (Addison Riecke) brings him a prayer book as a gift. Alicia sneaks up to give him a kiss during the nightly prayers. He stays up in the music room unable to move and hides up there when the Confederate soldiers march by stopping to check that everything is all right. 

McBurney recovers steadily, starting to test his leg with a cane and leaning on Amy to get around. He starts to offer to do services despite his crippled leg and helps around the garden that has gone untended for quite some time. The entire mansion is in disrepair and McBurney brings to life these things as he is able to walk again. He confides in Amy and tries to talk to all the women out of loneliness and boredom. The girls show off their talents and McBurney sneaks kisses with Edwina as well. After an especially celebratory night of dinner and music where Martha nearly kisses McBurney, Edwina readies to visit him in his room. She hears giggling from Alicia's room and finds McBurney on top of her. Shocked, Edwina stumbles back as McBurney rushes to console her. Edwina pushes McBurney down the stairs, snapping his leg into even worse shape. Alicia claims that the corporal forced himself on her. 

Miss Martha has no choice but to grab the anatomy book and amputate the leg. When McBurney awakes, he's enraged blaming Edwin and Martha for conspiring against him when he decided not to come to either of their rooms. He steals a gun from Martha's desk and threatens the women, taking control of the house. Amy tries to calm him by showing him her turtle but he viciously throws it across the room and proclaims himself less than a man. Martha instructs Amy to tie the blue rag around the gate but the girl is caught and taken to the other building. Martha manages to calm him and bring him back to the house, but he won't be calmed, drinking and yelling. Edwina feels guilty for throwing him down the stairs and goes to comfort him, ending up having intercourse. As McBurney is occupied, the other ladies plot and Marie suggests poisoning him with mushrooms. They set a large dinner to celebrate his impending departure and poison him sitting poised as he chokes. Edwina is distraught from his death. The women sew him up in a bag and leave him out front with the blue ribbon tied to the gate in one final shot.

The Beguiled is a remake of a movie from 1971 and caused some controversy for eliminating the black character. It does follow closely with the original, The film is beautifully shot and full of suspenseful moments that come with the soothing Southern setting. It brushes over a lot of the worse horrors of the Civil War, focusing more on the conniving intrigue within the house and not having any scenes elsewhere. There is a lot to like as all the acting goes well with the great directing making clear why it won at Sundance. Still, it comes up short in other areas while exploring the relationship between men and women but shouldn't have shied away from more difficult topics, especially about the South.

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