Desperate politics and fantastic performances heighten Civil War drama 'The Beguiled'

(l to r.) Elle Fanning as Alicia, Nicole Kidman as Miss Martha, Kirsten Dunst as Edwina, Angourie Rice as Jane, Oona Laurence as Amy, Emma Howard as Emily, and Addison Riecke as Marie in Focus Features’ atmospheric thriller THE BEGUILED, written for the screen

The Beguiled
4 out of 5 Stars
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.

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