The Beguiled Review – Shocking, Stunning, An Early Oscar Favorite

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The Beguiled, from American Zoetrope and Focus Features, presents the final days of the Civil War and the breakdown as solid truths and commitments become clouded by the presence of a wounded Union soldier who electrifies the home.

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Lawrence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, and Emma Howard.

The Beguiled begins with the sun setting on the Civil War and with both sides breaking up Northern troops are deserting, Southern troops are running, as the north advances deeper into Southern held capitals.

A girls school in Virginia, run by Martha Farnsworth, played by Nicole Kidman, and her assistant, Edwina Dabney, played by Kirsten Dunst, is still in operation as the scent and sound of war rages on around them.

On this day, Amy, played by Oona Lawrence is slowing making her way around the grounds of the estate picking mushrooms to complement the dinner the women are preparing. Coming around the corner she stumbles on a badly wounded Union solider, played by Colin Farrell.

Unsure of her next move, Amy, a true daughter of the south and a believer in Christian charity, is confident helping him to the house and allowing Miss Martha, to make a decision on what to do with him is best.

Soon she and he are at the house. The solider passes out as five girls and Miss Martha and Miss Edwina, surrounded the fainted solider.

The women, who are ready to tie the blue scarf on the gates so the passing Confederates soldiers will stop and pick him up as a prisoner of war, the five younger women, all of whom believe the words they've been taught by Edwina and Martha and convince the others Christian charity is probably the right decision.

As soon as John McBurney, played by Colin Ferrell, arrives, the spark of sexuality enters the home. The girls, not accustomed to the stranger, handsome, with an Irish brogue, wounded, becomes the object of imaginative affection.

For others, Alicia, played by Elle Fanning, a teen, who would be the one to give her parents hell as sneaking out of the home or in this case the next most scared time, the evening prayers, to experience freedom and in this case, to visit the wounded John McBurney, who still in deep sleep, is unaware of her flirtatious goodnight kiss.

The next day, the home has exploded with femininity, as the girls are looking at the solider as the opportunity to shake the dust off the finery and dress a little different, take extra time fixing their hair, adding ribbons and bows, breaking out of the drab every day to entertain, on the off chance he awakes, the gentleman caller, even if he is a Union solider.

The women call on Mr. McBurney, all seven, and ask him if he would enjoy dining with them. Their kindness is genuine, he is a deserter, and as he is calculating the resolve of the women, he accepts.

Soon the evening dinner, a beautifully well-set table, candles, deliciously replete with all the trimmings, a welcomed change for Mr. McBurney, who responds with charm as they talk of the war and the end and the future.

I genuinely enjoyed The Beguiled. The nuances of southern hospitality, even the Christian language, and devout beliefs which are tricky to find the "believable" voice were spoken with authenticity.

As The Beguiled ended I said to the person beside me, "I thought it would be too soon to begin Oscar season." The Beguiled has all the elements of an award-winning film, including the director Sophia Coppola, who became the only female in the history of Cannes film festival to win the Best Director award, twice.

She pulled performances from her talent that elevated the film with the cruel twists and shocking turns, all played with a blunt honesty.  

The stellar ensemble cast, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Elle fanning and newcomers Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, and Emma Howard, each brought together the notes of a finely conducted symphony. Adding in their individual performances, the subtly and back stories, were captured easily folded into the film, with simple prop placement.   

The women left responsible for their lives as the war has taken so much from each of them, loved ones, lives, parents, lovers, have no choice as the night turns dark to make decisions they expect to be understood as the truth in which they performed and not the interpretation seen through damaged reality.

It feels a bit like dissecting and I want to add the cinematography captured, a combination of early morning mist, and bomb smoke from heavy fighting as the last bastions of General Lee's south were under heavy attack and dismantled, and the over-hanging Weeping Willow trees, the large Plantation style home, each detail was present. There was one additional element that kept me in my seat throughout the credits and I want to add stay to the end.

The Beguiled premiered at the Cannes Film Festival with obvious rave reviews. The Beguiled was also chosen as the opening film at The Los Angeles Film Festival and will open in limited engagement in the United States at June 23, 2017 and opens wide June 30, 2017.

The Beguiled, a period piece, stands out in the crowded summer box office and is a must see!

 

Images courtesy of IMDB

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