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Grim reaps in ‘The Beguiled’

By Peter Kougias
Hometown Weekly Intern


Sofia Coppola’s latest film, “The Beguiled,” is a gothic thriller set against a Civil War backdrop in Virginia. The story follows the women of Farnsworth Seminary who salvage John McBurney (Colin Farrell), a Union soldier. After a young student brings him back to the house, Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) and teacher Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst) rehabilitate and lock McBurney in the music room. Soon, attractions creep down the hallways, leading McBurney to student Alicia (Elle Fanning). Misunderstanding and betrayal crumble the house, leading the women to stand against the soldier.

For a runtime of 94 minutes, the film relies on the talented actors to keep the pace moving. The second act lingers for some time, but pays off for the scrumptious finale the film serves. Nicole Kidman stars as the stern headmistress who must keep the school under control during the war. Kirsten Dunst’s will to break free shines as her staple in a Coppola film. Again, Elle Fanning proves her strong stance in the film industry with her angsty performance. And the key that turns the lock is Colin Farrell, whose deceiving charm ultimately deteriorates the sanctuary.

After mixed reviews from her last film, “The Bling Ring,” Coppola triumphantly veers from her style while retaining her signature techniques and themes. Compared to her other period piece, “Marie Antoinette,” this lacks the bubblegum fest and 80s synth soundtrack. However, she still utilizes pop subtly throughout the story.

“The Beguiled” is a film in which viewers are rewarded for looking beneath the surface. A conversation about apple pie implies a raunchy undertone and provides comedic relief while the corruption brews. The alluring imagery of Spanish moss and open fields belies the hidden terror lurking behind closed doors.

This film is based on the book “A Painted Devil,” written by Thomas Cullinan. This is the second adaptation of the story. In 1971, Don Siegel directed his version, which starred Clint Eastwood. Coppola’s vision conquers the original with her feminist approach.

“The Beguiled” opens in theaters on June 30.

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