This review sort of contains spoilers.
For years, I have kept a certain distance from Sofia Coppola and her movies due to them being extremely boring for my taste. They take forever to build up, they have very many empty-scenes (a term that I will explain later), and the payoff is usually unsatisfying. The reason I don’t necessarily like Sofia Coppola’s movies is because I have a hard time actually watching them, which makes The Beguiled a special one. But, I must confess that since initially rating it, I have lowered my score from 4 to 3, because the more I think about The Beguiled, the more I’m disappointed in its direction and lack of intrigue.
When my mom said to me that she wanted to see The Beguiled, I was shocked because she doesn’t really go to the cinema that often. Well, this has now completely changed because we have gone many times this summer and probably will go every time I visit her back in my hometown. Anyway, I was shocked, but I was also very excited because me and my mom both loved the trailer for The Beguiled a lot! Both of us hadn’t seen the original version, so we had no idea what to expect, but the trailer had us interested. Well, turns out the trailer was the most thrilling element of The Beguiled, as its actual plot was a slow burn towards a moment that was already shown to us in the trailer itself.
That is the worst kind of thought to have, when walking out of the theater. That you received little to no new information from the movie itself. Yes, the events were a bit jumbled up, but most of it was clear and after the first few scenes, you could literally guess every next step. There was no surprise, no shock, no thrill, nothing to experience that would have at least given me some sort of an emotional response. I didn’t even see Colin Farrell’s ass! And we all know he’s completely fine with nudity, the man has a sex tape out there, so shame on you Sofia Coppola, for not utilising every possible asset you had on this movie to its full capacity. I’m appalled. And disappointed.
So another set of complaints I have with The Beguiled is, like I mentioned, the empty-scene usage. Frames with trees slightly moving in the wind, frames that show birds flying, frames that have no action in them but are used to create an atmosphere. I have seen this in many indie films, and I call these scenes empty because there is a lack of plot to them. Not to say these scenes are completely pointless, no, I think they do add to the feel of the movie, but I also think they are a weak way to deliver atmosphere. For some movies it works, for The Beguiled, for me personally, it felt like an unnecessary means to prolong the plot which ended up being utterly predictable.
By the middle of the movie I could almost predict when an empty-scene would appear, ripping us away from the plot, the characters, showing us time passing. And I thought it was completely pointless, because I wanted to know more about the characters, to see more of the them, to see the story progress through character development! I thought Colin Farrell was brilliant in this role, showing his range and I even felt like Nicole Kidman was giving her all. Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning were as good, and it pains me to say that I wish the movie allowed them to shine more. To have more to do, and to have less of these atmospheric scenes that constantly slowed down the plot. Which shouldn’t surprise me, because I’ve thought this about every Sofia Coppola movie ever – she makes slow movies, and man, I do not have the patience for them.
There is also the controversial decision to remove the coloured characters from the movie. I feel weird typing this but I think it’s not the biggest issue the movie has. Sure, it is disrespectful to tell a story from no perspective while there was clearly a perspective in the source material. But I do agree that the context of the movie, and the turmoil of the current world, would have made the movie about something completely different entirely. That being said, I do think that The Beguiled didn’t really manage to create any point to itself and I’m questioning whether I missed it myself or that is was lost due to the whitewashing. Would the housemaid made a difference? Would Kirsten Dunst’s character, originally a mixed raced woman, added another layer to the story? Yes!
Which brings me finally to the good, The Beguiled has so much potential! There’s no denying that the acting is good, and that the actual story has so many interesting elements to it. The fact that a soldier manipulates women, kids, and talks his way into their lives very cunningly, is a great setting for a movie. Would it have been even more meaningful to see him interact with a mixed raced woman during that time? I would think so, because the element of betrayal in the movie comes across very lightly, and it could have been so much better. And it’s not because Dunst and Fanning, alongside with Kidman, did a bad job, it’s because they decided to show everything important in the trailer. Granted, the movie is based on a book and there already is an adaptation of it, but that does not excuse using the most important line of the movie in the trailer. My mother, who isn’t really critical with drama movies that have such great performances, said that the movie was just like the longer version of the trailer – which was just a bit scrambled. And that’s a sad fact.
So why such a high rating? Well, I really loved Farrell’s performance, and I thought the topic of the movie was very important. And like I said, it has a lot of potential and its biggest fault is Sofia Coppola – she is just unable to make movies that don’t drag. And I felt like if I’d rate it lower it would be unfair, since I dislike some of her movies, haven’t seen most of them and managed to finish this one. But, and it’s an unforgivable crime, not gifting us with a bare ass, will forever taint the name Sofia Coppola in my eyes.