Leaves no room for any actual shock to take hold when the finale is revealed
The Beguiled takes place in a school house during the American Civil War. With all of the men and many students removed, left are only two teachers and a handful of young girls. When one of the children finds an injured fighter from the enemy forces while foraging, she takes him back to the school house for care. Unsure of what to do with the man, he is locked in an upstairs bedroom, but as the women get to know him for who he is, complicated emotions creep into each of their lives.
The Beguiled is particularly styled in its outward appearance however it lacks a sense of panache entirely. There is no excitement in the images on screen, even though it’s a film of intricate detail. It can’t be described as bland as there is an incredibly powerful storyline set within the frame work, but it does often come across as underwhelming in part to its appearance.
The story itself is a slow builder, taking too long to reveal the nature of the film’s message, even if the message is all too obvious anyway. Sofia Coppola has managed to layer the film beautifully with intertwining characters and relationships, yet this leaves no room for any actual shock to take hold when the finale is revealed.
The expectation is high from a strong cast, including a resurgent Nicole Kidman and a rising talent in Elle Fanning, and that expectation is matched, particularly on an emotional level. In fact, this is enhanced by a strong script with strong core themes. Again, the layering behind Coppola’s work here is majestic.
The Beguiled is a strong piece of drama, with a complicated yet interesting message. Its core themes are clear to see in a metaphorical sense, and that works. The issue lies with the film’s general outlook being overtly weak and obvious. The Beguiled does not stand out, and it suffers for that.