Movies: The Beguiled

I usually really enjoy moody period dramas, and I had high hopes for this one. What I guess I'd forgotten is that, of the few Sofia Coppola movies I've seen, I haven't much enjoyed any of them. And The Beguiled is very much a Sofia Coppola movie despite being based on a novel.

The story is very simple. In 1864 Virginia, a wounded Union soldier named John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is taken in by a houseful of women—Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and her charges, the remaining pupils of her girls' school. A man in their midst upsets the placid setting. That's pretty much the story, really. The women become beguiled by the strange man.

One of the major problems with this movie, besides the fact that it is glacially paced and not a whole lot happens, is that none of the characters are given thorough development. A few get more than others, but overall the young ladies feel somewhat interchangeable. And where tension should be building, it just never does. We all know that, in the words of Bartok the Bat, "this can only end in tears," but we don't really feel any dread.

The movie is beautiful to look at, mind. It's gorgeously shot. And I do honestly believe the actors did the best they could with the material they were given. It was a valiant effort.

But the bottom line is that the movie was slow and pretty boring. I'm somewhat curious about the novel now; I only found out about the whitewashing scandal after looking stuff up for this post. So I do wonder about ways the book is different. I feel there could definitely be more depth of character in a novel than was portrayed on the screen. Some books just don't translate to film very well. (Then again, apparently the Clint Eastwood version of this movie is much better. Not that I'm keen to try it again so soon. Not beguiled enough for that.)

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