Desperate politics and fantastic performances heighten Civil War drama 'The Beguiled'
4 out of 5 Stars
Director: Sofia Coppola
Writers: Sofia Coppola, Thomas Cullinan
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning
Genre: Drama, Western
Rated: R for some sexuality
Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, the lives of the few remaining students and staff at a girl’s school in Virginia are turned upside down when one of the young girls discovers a wounded Union soldier.
Review: Gathered together with the Civil War surrounding them, a group of women and girls are placed in a desperate situation. The world is changing, the idyllic life once promised has been revealed to be a false promise. The discovery of a wounded Union soldier introduces a chaotic element that shatters the daily routine.
Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” is a study of women, the relationships they foster and how the inclusion of a man into the equation can lead to unexpected behavior. It’s a heightened situation, the men that should be suitors are dead, dying or otherwise changed by the carnage that they have participated in.
It is not a study of race, which has some critics up in arms. I understand their anger, it is justifiable, but it also feels misplaced. Coppola had a concept of the story she wanted to tell and themes and issues she wanted to explore. You can focus on what isn’t there, but I prefer to look at the strength of what is included. To that end “The Beguiled” offers us realistically flawed characters in a pressure cooker. At any given time, the characters’ play predator and prey as power moves from side to side in the ever-shifting game of sexual politics.