Sofia Coppola delivers a top notch remake in “The Beguiled”

Remakes are often dismissed out of hand. Most of the time, they’re unnecessary at best and unwatchable at worst. Every so often, however, a worthwhile one comes down the pike and is worth celebrating. This week, we have one to take notice of and actually fete in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled. After a successful debut at the Cannes Film Festival, it heads stateside to try and further its chances at sticking around until the precursor season begins. In a somewhat light year for Oscar friendly titles (really, this is the only one, besides The Hero), The Beguiled has at least a fighting chance.

The film is, as mentioned above, a remake of the 1971 Don Siegel movie of the same name, which essentially was a Clint Eastwood star vehicle. Set during the Civil War in Virginia, much of the action takes place at a secluded all girls school, one run by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman). The students are Alicia (Elle Fanning), Amy (Oona Laurence), Emily (Emma Howard), Jane (Angourie Rice), and Marie (Addison Riecke). While out and out one day, a wounded Union soldier named John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is discovered. The young women decide to shelter him from the outside world, much like they are. Soon, the house is rife with jealousy, sexual tension, newfound rivalries, and potentially horror. Coppola writes the adaptation and directs, while Philippe Le Sourd contributes the cinematography. As for the score, it comes from Phoenix, with a hand from Laura Karpman as well.

Coppola does some of the best work of her career here. Outside of Lost in Translation, this is her finest hour. Her script is tight, while her direction is tense and often horrifically beautiful. She has a perfect handle of the material, putting forth an enjoyable yet intense tone. There are nervous laughs, mainly coming from Fanning’s lusty young woman, while the cast is uniformly good. From the aforementioned Fanning to other top notch cast members like Dunst, Farrell, and Kidman, everyone is doing strong work. This slots neatly into my top ten for the year to date. Also, at around 90 minutes, it does not overstay its welcome, which is a compliment in and of itself.

Here is how I would rank Coppola’s filmography so far:

6. The Bling Ring
5. Marie Antoinette
4. The Virgin Suicides
3. Somewhere
2. The Beguiled
1. Lost in Translation

Awards wise, The Beguiled does seem like one of the first half of 2017’s more realistic players. An across the board campaign makes sense, with Best Picture, Best Director (for Coppola), Best Actor/Best Supporting Actor (for Farrell), Best Actress/Best Supporting Actress (for Kidman), Best Supporting Actress (for Dunst and/or Fanning), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Coppola), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, and Best Original Score. Focus Features will have to figure out some category placement and remind folks how good the techs are for this one, but there’s a chance that Oscar takes a shine to this one. Time will tell.

On Friday, audiences can begin checking out one of the year’s best movies in The Beguiled. It represents something deliciously fun, as well as signaling a mid year transition towards higher profile films in 2017. We’re nowhere near the prestige season of the year, but very few things so far have been as good as this one. Whether it’s an awards player or not remains to be seen, but it’s just quality cinema. Especially if you’re a Coppola fan, this one is not to be missed. Much more than summer counter programming, this flick is just something top notch and well worth seeing…

Be sure to check out The Beguiled, beginning its theatrical run this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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