The Beguiled: Strong Performances in Civil War Drama

(l to r. - clockwise) Addison Riecke as Marie, Kirsten Dunst as Edwina, Nicole Kidman as Miss Martha, Colin Farrell as John McBurney, Elle Fanning as Alicia, Emma Howard as Emily, and Angourie Rice as Jane in Focus Features’ atmospheric thriller THE BEGUILED, written for the screen and directed by Sofia Coppola. Credit: Ben Rothstein / Focus Features

The Beguiled may be a remake of the 1971 movie of the same name but the acting performances are so strong in this psychological thriller that it almost doesn’t even matter.

Written for the screen and directed by Sofia Coppola from the book written by Thomas Cullinan, the period drama stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning.  Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Emma Howard, and Addison Riecke all play boarding school students.

Three years into the Civil War in 1864, the film is set mainly at the Farnsworth Seminary, a boarding school for girls in Virginia, and contains such a small cast with eleven total members–many of them are women.  There is so much sexual tension!  It’s not surprising given how many teen girls are still attending the boarding school during the Civil War.  With no other guys around, it should come as no surprise that they fell for the Corporal McBurney (Farrell) even though he’s a Yankee soldier.

Until McBurney entered the picture, it was business as usual at the boarding school run by Martha (Kidman).  The students would do their usual schoolwork or chores: prayer, play music, Fresh lessons, eat dinner, work in the garden, and go to sleep.  Joining Martha as a character who serves as a mother to the children is Edwina (Dunst).

Coppola is no stranger to doing movies about a group of females, whether it was The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, or The Bling Ring.

“I was drawn to this story because it was about a group of women,” Coppola says.  “It did remind me a little bit of The Virgin Suicides, with girls cut off from the world – and because I’d never really done a movie about women at varying ages at different points in their lives and how they all relate to each other. In the story, they each relate differently to the man.”

While The Beguiled certainly is not a movie that I would sit through again, it features some of the finest acting performances I’ve seen this year.  Coppola became the second woman in Cannes history to win the Best Director award.  The only question is whether or not this film will be fresh on people’s minds in December and January.  This is one of the problems that comes with releasing potential awards contenders in June.

Following its world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Focus Features opened The Beguiled in New York and Los Angeles on June 23, 2017 and nationwide on June 30, 2017.


Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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