Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst
Director: Sofia Coppola
Running Time: 96 mins
The Beguiled is an American film about the tension that grows within a group of women living in a rural house when they take in a wounded male soldier.
This film was a bit of a disappointment. A remake of a 1971 drama and featuring a premise that has so much possibility for thrilling and intense drama, I was left very underwhelmed at the emptiness of The Beguiled. Despite a relatively engaging central portion where the drama works, it’s a generally slow, quiet and empty film that doesn’t develop at a consistent rate, making for an uneven and frustrating watch.
Let’s start with the film’s opening act, which is arguably one of the most boring set ups I’ve ever seen in a film. I was intrigued by the film’s premise at first, and was looking to see how the tension between the women in the house would grow when a man is thrown among their ranks, but what I got was a pretty lifeless and pointless half hour of dull conversations interspersed by brief moments of character and story development.
What’s even weirder about the film is that it’s so brilliant at bringing about drama quickly and efficiently. The entire dynamic of the story and the relationships between characters can change on nothing more than a look, and Sofia Coppola does an amazing job to make a few brief moments play a big, memorable role in the film as a whole.
However, what happens between those moments is tedious. What disappointed me most about The Beguiled’s opening was just how inefficient it was, winning in brief moments of brilliance, and then wasting long periods of time as the characters aimlessly walk up and down the house not really helping to spur the tension that’s at the centre of the story.
And that’s where my other big issue with this film comes in: it’s just not tense enough. No, I’m not looking for suspense and nail-biting thrills, but what I felt was really lacking here was an underlying level of subtle tension between the characters. The story’s premise of women being pit against each other over a man is reminiscent of the brilliant Chinese film Raise The Red Lantern, however the difference in delivery is enormous.
In that film, the tension and rivalry between the women is palpable, and it plays a central role in establishing the drama of the story as a whole. In The Beguiled, on the other hand, there’s no sense of underlying tension. While its middle portion does manage to bring a good degree of intrigue and excitement by focusing down and putting two characters head to head, the majority of the film is really missing out on the dark and brutal rivalry that should be the fundamental centre of the entire story.
It’s an issue that then continues into the final act, rendering what should be high drama incredibly underwhelming on numerous occasions. In that, The Beguiled is a film with a fascinating premise, and one with excellent promise for genuine tension, but it falls down as an excessively slow and quiet movie that misses the opportunity to make something powerful and riveting, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.8.