The Beguiled (2017)

A delicious and schlocky B-thriller distilled from Don Siegel’s original film then bottled into Sofia Coppola’s own distinct brand of cinematic perfume. I just love her eye. All of those postcard shots of the women together in their dresses bathed in shadow and candlelight – gorgeous. Atmosphere dripping everywhere. This is a total aesthetic dream-house. And basically Barry Lyndon meets Misery. Gimme gimme gimme.

Nevertheless, I get why a lot of people find this tedious or flat. It can easily seem like very little stretched too thinly. The endless potential of the subject matter – lurid, political and sensational – is mostly ignored in favour of a story completely spared down to its key components. This is a sparse and quiet potboiler, full of loaded glances and hushed dialogue. I actually like that about the film. When it does occasionally jitter into action, dramatics and violence it’s quick to revert back to more hushed tones. For instance: Colin Farrell’s almost-immedately iconic howl of “you vengeful bitches!” from the trailer is actually played off-screen, muffled behind a closed door, while the camera focuses on the women sat elsewhere listening patiently. Coppola clearly tried to spread her wings with something containing more bite, but she can’t help but find pursed lips and subtle smiles more meaningful than bared teeth. Let’s be honest though, Sofia Coppola’s Vengeful Bitches would have been a far better title. Imagine that box office intake too. Blimey, Charlie.

Ofcourse, the entire cast is great. Nicole Kidman continues her winning streak, Elle Fanning indulges in batting her devilish eyelids and Dunst is at her dowdiest and saddest in a Coppola movie. Farrell too is a logical modern-day answer to the Eastwood part from the original. Love all those female gaze-infelcted shots of his lathered midriff (the dude really got rid of that Lobster podge in no time at all didn’t he?) They all work together, as actors and set-dressing for Coppola and DOP Philippe Le Sourd’s southern gothic milieu, beautifully.

I’m always there for new Coppola and I wish people would stop expecting her to make big-deal classics every time out of the gate. She’s building up quite the filmography and we should just sit back and enjoy watching it slowly come together. Maybe that Cannes win set people up for disappointment. Oh well. Just look at that damned poster. How can you resist seeing Coppola dress up this kind of movie in her own textiles? I know I can’t.

Watched at cinema

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