- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : The Beguiled

| July 7, 2017

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of The Beguiled.

I think I’m starting to realize that I don’t consider Sofia Coppola to be a good director. I think she did an amazing job with her first film, Lost in Translation. But almost everything else she has made has either been mediocre or straight up awful in my mind. And this film is no exception, spoiler for the rest of the review. I think of the directing Coppolas, she is the best besides Francis Ford Coppola obviously. But honestly, the bar has never been set that high.

The Beguiled is a remake of the 1971 film of the same name directed by Don Siegel. In the original version, we had Clint Eastwood playing a soldier from the North during the Civil War as he is treated by a school for women in the South. The 2017 version of this film, gives the same story but from the perspective of the women. And that in itself is the first major problem with the film.

I will say straightly that the original film isn’t a masterpiece, or even great or good frankly. The 1971 version of the film is fine and something you would catch on television one night, but there is a reason why it isn’t remembered as one of the necessary films of Clint Eastwood’s career. The story in general of “The Beguiled”, really isn’t that interesting. For a film that takes place during the Civil War with members of both sides trapped in the same house together, there is close to no political or racial dialogue in both films. Which I feel is a major missed opportunity. More importantly, however, is that the original story is not interesting enough to warrant two different perspectives on the same situation. The 2017 version is better written in parts. Noticeably is the female characters are more defined and more interesting in general. The issue is that they are more defined characters who do more or less nothing the entire film. The story of “The Beguiled” isn’t complex enough to have this film and the original film work as separate films. There really isn’t anything new or interesting from seeing the story from the female perspective. And frankly, there wasn’t really anything interesting in seeing it from the male perspective either.

One of the more surprising elements of this film that I wasn’t expecting is that for a film that is trying to give a feminist perspective or at least a female point of view, the female characters are fairly weak characters. The most interesting character in the entire film is played by Kirsten Dunst, who gives a great performance. But Dunst’s character is the most insecure and punching bag of a character in the entire film. To the point where I in the final act I couldn’t relate to her character anymore because she became so insecure that it became almost a caricature. Nicole Kidman, again a great performance, but is still portrayed as a villain. The film is from her perspective, and you see that she doesn’t have any cruel intentions, but the direction and the performance are played like a villain which only made me not particularly care for her character. Then Elle Fanning, again a great performance and probably my favorite of the film, doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than to really want to sleep with Colin Farrell. Thinking back to the film, Fanning’s character is used for one specific moment, but other than that her character serves no purpose. For a film that has been boasting about its female perspective and almost reclaiming of the genre, none of the female characters are relatable or likable. The most likable character is played by Oona Laurence, and her performance is probably one of my favorite child performances I’ve seen in a long time. She and Angourie Rice both were the surprises of the film, and I feel like we don’t get enough of either of them. Honestly, Angourie Rice gives the most interesting performance playing the daughter of high-ranking Confederate General. She gives multiple throwaway lines that tease that racial and political conflict I mentioned earlier, that ultimately go nowhere. That isn’t to say that Colin Farrell’s character is any better. I will say that the impression I got was that Colin Farrell’s portrayal was more charming and fits the womanizer angle better than Clint Eastwood. But it has the same problem where I just don’t care.

The tone of the film is never consistent. The screening I went with was laughing almost the entire film. Which there are humorous moments in the film, so the laughs were not completely unwarranted. But when you have these kinds of scenes and the more brutal and “suspenseful” scenes, it just doesn’t click. It feels like Coppola can’t decide between her more comic style that she has used in the past or if she wants to use a more serious and darker style. The film bounces between the two so frequently that I don’t take the darker moments seriously. Toward the end of the film, the conflict between Farrell’s character and the girls rises to an escalation, and I wanted it to go a certain way only because I knew the film would end once that happened. Not because I cared about any of the characters or their motivations, but because I knew that would be the logical conclusion and I could leave. And then it happens and it is the most lackluster moment of the entire film. I won’t call it “anti-climatic” because I think anti-climaxes are often times really good to show a certain tone. And I can tell that Coppola is trying to do that here, but it comes off as nothing as opposed to melancholy. And for a film that is trying to be suspenseful, the film is horribly paced.

A lot of the problems with the tone and pace of the film originate from the fact that this might be the worst editing film I’ve seen all year. It feels like this film could be a solid forty to fifty minutes. But every shot starts too early and every scene lingers a bit too long. If you trimmed that up, the film would be more suspenseful and it would get to the point quicker. That combined with the fact that there are multiple scenes that tease something, but then is never mentioned again are bothersome. The biggest example I can think of is there is an entire scene that is edited in a way to highlight this button. There are at least three close up shots of this button in the scene. The scene is just Oona Laurence talking about this button. We see her very carefully take care of this button, then we never see it again after this scene. There is literally no point in this scene. And there are multiple moments like this in the film. It feels a lot like Sofia Coppola decided on making this film and couldn’t find enough material to make a feature film. Going back to my first complaint that this story isn’t complex enough to warrant two different films.

I’ve been harsh up to this point, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything good in the film. The cinematography has good shot composition. I won’t say that it has great cinematography because a lot of the great shots of this film are great stills. I’m sure these stills will pop up around Tumblr blogs and around the web for a great example of cinematography, and they are great stills. But in context to what they mean and why they are composed that way, there is close to no meaning. The camera is completely static the entire film, which just leads to boring cinematography. But the composition of the shots are well done, even if they don’t serve much of a purpose.

I will also say one of the biggest standouts of the film is the sound design. The sound design is honestly the most artistic and well done of the entire project. Throughout the film, you hear cannons going off in the distance. This adds to the suspense of the film. The cannons act almost as a heartbeat to the film. The pounding of the cannons only gets louder and more powerful as the film goes on and after the defining moment of Colin Farrell’s the cannons stop. The sound design has the most artistic merit of the film and it might be my favorite sound design of the year.

Overall, the film is fine. The sound design and the art direction is really where the film shines. The acting is all well done without anyone being what I would call the best performance of the year. The direction and the editing are really where the film struggles and is the film’s ultimate downfall. If you wanted to see the film, I would still check it out. Just know that it is an extremely slow paced film that never extends beyond “Exploitation Film” territory.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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