'The Beguiled' is brittle and vaporous

'The Beguiled' stars Nicole Kidman as the headmistress of a Southern school during the Civil War. When a wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) arrives at the school, various women vie for his affections.

Ben Rothstein/Focus Features/AP
Nicole Kidman in a scene from "The Beguiled."

Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” is another of her too-cool-for-school exercises in dry ice dramaturgy. A remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood film of the same name, it squanders an enticing premise: A wounded Union soldier in the Civil War, corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell, in full Irish brogue), is taken in by a group of Southern female teachers and students living by themselves in an isolated mansion. As he is nursed back to health, machinations ensue as the various women vie for the man’s affections. He, in turn, in an effort to survive the war, entices them in ways both subtle and blatant.

Coppola doesn’t exaggerate any of these maneuverings, but her distancing effects sap much of the life from the situation. Given her source material, her ultra-refined sensibility could do with a bit more pulp. A few of the performances, especially Nicole Kidman’s, as the lady in charge, and Kirsten Dunst’s, as the teacher pining to flee with the corporal, have some bite, but not enough to make much of an imprint in this brittle, vaporous chamber piece. Grade: C+ (Rated R for some sexuality.)  

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 'The Beguiled' is brittle and vaporous
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Movies/2017/0623/The-Beguiled-is-brittle-and-vaporous
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe