Review: Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled lacks Clint Eastwood’s hard man edge

Nicole Kidman as Miss Martha and Colin Farrell as John McBurney in The Beguiled. Picture: Focus Feat

Nicole Kidman as Miss Martha and Colin Farrell as John McBurney in The Beguiled. Picture: Focus Features - Credit: Focus Features

Colin Farrell quietly fills his shoes as the wounded Yankee soldier but Coppola's dreamy Civil War drama is a little too much picture book pretty costume drama.

Kirsten Dunst as Edwina and Colin Farrell as John McBurney in The Beguiled. Picture: Focus Features

Kirsten Dunst as Edwina and Colin Farrell as John McBurney in The Beguiled. Picture: Focus Features - Credit: Archant

The Beguiled (15)

***

Given Hollywood's desire to disinter anything successful from the past, it's amazing nobody ever remakes Clint Eastwood films (other than an honourable Japanese version of Unforgiven).

We have not seen a Hugh Jackman Dirty Harry, a Duwayne Johnson Every Which Way But Loose or even a Leonardo DiCaprio Outlaw Josey Wales, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Emma Howard as Emily, Kirsten Dunst as Edwina, Elle Fanning as Alicia, Oona Laurence as Amy, Angouri

Emma Howard as Emily, Kirsten Dunst as Edwina, Elle Fanning as Alicia, Oona Laurence as Amy, Angourie Rice as Jane, Addison Riecke as Marie, and Nicole Kidman as Miss Martha. Picture: Focus Features - Credit: Archant


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Now we have Colin Farrell, ever so discretely, not so you'd notice, filling Eastwood's shoes in Sofia Coppola's version of his 1971 tale of a wounded Yankee soldier during the Civil War being looked after by the staff and students at an all girls school in Virginia.

Coppola's approach to movie making has always been to set a mood and stick with it. Her cameraman Philippe Le Sourd (Grandmaster, Seven Pounds) douses everything in heavy Southern Gothic: the Doric columns of the boarding house, the beams of sunshine fingering through the oppressive fecundity of the lush woodland and overhanging branches.

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Most things are shot in a bleary mush, with faces often obscured and the background blurred. It's like a drowsy Tennessee Williams rocking on the porch and getting a hazy premonition of Tim Burton.

The film is a great dreamy chamber piece but there isn't much to it. The soldier's arrival stirs the repressed passion in the ladies and even from his position in bed he begins to exert a hold over them.

The women and girls all flirt with him or deny their attraction to him, Farrell tries to manipulate their affections. It's like Misery, if Misery had been set in a nunnery and been a little more even handed.

Shot for beautiful shot, performance for marvellous performance, this may be better than the original, but it doesn't really have the impact. Back in the early 70s manly man director Don Siegal and a pre-Dirty Harry/post Man with No Name Eastwood handling this material gave it a real edge. Coppola's version is a picture book pretty costume drama.

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