Racism wasn’t the only thing fought in the Civil War, it seems.
Out somewhere in the deep South, during the Civil War, lies a school for girls where, for the most part, the word of the gospel is spoken about. Managed by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman), the girls all stick together, depending on each other to not just get by in a rough time like this, but remember that at the end of this dreadful war, there will be a life to continue on living. But being tucked away from the rest of the world and society, even during a time like this, can be awfully dangerous. And it all comes to head when an injured soldier by the name of John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is found by the girls and eventually, taken in. He has an injured leg and rather than going right back out there into the battlefield, the ladies all decide to help him out, feeding him, bathing him, clothing him, and yes, allowing him to eventually heal up to near-perfection, so that he can be back on fighting the good fight. But McBurney’s got a little something more on his mind and considering that there’s about five or six women, all alone, in a house with him, he decides to take total advantage of the situation at hand.
So yeah, I bet you see what I did there. If not, I took the same plot-synposis I put for the review of the original Beguiled, here, and just took out some of the old names, and put in the new ones. Does it make a lick of a difference? Nope, not really, and that’s sort of the point.
In a sense, the Beguiled is kind of an unnecessary remake; it’s not as if the original needed much of a re-working, or update, nor was it like the world was clamoring to hear this story of sexual-politics play-out all over again, but this time, with different people involved. It’s odd, actually, because these kinds of remakes are the ones that folks like myself rag and tag on Hollywood for constantly making; the kind of remakes where it doesn’t seem like anyone should care about why it exists, or better yet, what it means for the rest of the world of film. But yeah, at the same time, I sort of don’t care because the Beguiled, as a remake and sort of update, it works.
Granted, it’s still unnecessary and only a slight bit better than the original, so take it all with a grain of salt.
But that said, writer/director Sofia Coppola does a solid job of down-playing everything this time around. Whereas with the original, everything was literally spelled-out to us in an narration, Coppola takes the smart move in allowing for the actors to tell us what to think, feel, and understand. Coppola hasn’t always made the best movies around, but she sure as hell knows how to handle actors and when it comes to getting a dirty, deep, and rather scary story off the ground, she’s effective; she keeps things just subtle enough to the point of where we don’t really know what’s next to expect, even if, yeah, we already saw the original.
And even all that aside, the Beguiled is still a solid, little thriller. It’s not the kind of movie that will win awards or break box-office records (then again, would it even want to?), but it provides a nice bit of steamy, sweaty, and gritty entertainment for 90 or so minutes, with some of the best actors in the biz, and Coppola showing a sure hand, once again, at directing. Also, it’s just nice to see Coppola trying something new and not trying to discuss the sadness and disparity in the lives of celebrities – a theme that, yeah, we already knew and understood over a decade ago with Lost in Translation.
But yeah, everyone here is good.
It’s hard to compare the performances of the original, to those of this remake, because like the movies themselves, they’re still pretty different in their small, subtle ways. For instance, Nicole Kidman’s Martha Farnsworth, while still commandeering and stern like Geraldine Page’s from the original, also has a darker side to her that’s only somewhat hinted at in the first. Same goes with Farrell’s McBurney who, despite not quite reaching the same heights Eastwood did in the original, still shows that there’s possibly a meaner, uglier side to this man and all of his charms. It’s actually an interesting performance that, quite frankly, I wish was given more of an opportunity to flesh itself out more and more. At the same time, though, less time for Farrell, meant more time for actual women on the screen like Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, and Addison Riecke, so yeah, it’s a little hard to complain.
I guess I should just be pretty thankful we have a movie, for once, with a big-budget, where women take over the solid majority of the cast. Let’s hope it’s a sign of more things to come, that honestly, should have already been coming already, dammit!
Consensus: Darker, meaner and way more subtle, this remake of the Beguiled improves slightly on the original, but also offers a great cast and solid return-to-form for Sofia Coppola.
7.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire