*”The Beguiled” has earned Sofia Coppola the BEST DIRECTING award at the 2017 Cannes Festival* Ever since “Marie Antoinette” filmmaker Sofia Coppola has seemed to suffer from indolence, and that was the case again with “The Beguiled,” her new film debuting today in Cannes. I could not get into this movie in spite of its bravura visual palette, its many funny moments and primo cast composed of Colin Farrell, Kristen Dunst and Nicole Kidman.
It’s three years into the civil war. Farrell plays Corporal McBirney, a confederate marauder in the Deep South. He is wounded and discovered by a young girl (Oona Lawrence) out picking mushrooms in the forest. McBirney is helped back to Amy’s home, the Farnsworth Seminary for Young Girls, a boarding school run by Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and Edwin, her second-in-command (Kirsten Dunst). As Martha does her Confederate duty she prepares to tell friendly troops of her prisoner. But before this she decides to nurse him back to health before turning him in. The girls (Elle Fanning, as Alicia, among others) become curious and then sensuous, it’s as if they want to love McBirney back to health. Competing passions manifest themselves and things unravel.
“Beguiled” is a remake of the 1971 Don Siegel namesake film starring Geraldine Page and Clint Eastwood. But what earned that film a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the violence, the gore, the thrills of competition, the immediate dangers of being around a woman scorned are notably absent here. Add to that my comparison of Geraldine’s Page Nurse Ratched to Kidman’s Blanche Dubois and you can see why the Coppola remake is a fail.
Coppola’s apparent attempt at a gothic-style thriller is heavy on comedic moments (we really did laugh quite a bit, and we need all the laughter we can get right now) but light on dramatic heft (of note: Coppola worked with director of photography Philippe Le Sourd [“Seven Pounds,” “A good year”]. Le Sourd and Coppola got the Gothic chiaroscuro effect dead-right for the film, every scene looked like a Gainsborough painting, watching this on the large Lumiere screen here at the Cannes Festival was enjoyable).