Monday, November 20, 2017
Things To Do

How Sofia Coppola's 'The Beguiled' compares to the 1971 version

RECOMMENDED READING


It was a man's world in 1971 when Clint Eastwood starred in The Beguiled, a Southern gothic thriller that's as misogynistic in hindsight as old movies can be.

A half-century later, director Sofia Coppola presents the feminist morality tale at the core of The Beguiled that Eastwood's macho image and society in general wouldn't allow at the time. In 1971, he played a charmer-turned-victim; now the character is a manipulator who'll get what he deserves.

Colin Farrell more adept than Eastwood at playing such men, so his casting as injured Union soldier John McBurney is smart except for an Irish accent needing to be explained away. As the Civil War winds down, McBurney is discovered in a Virginia forest by Amy (Oona Laurence ), the youngest of several girls at a nearby seminary run by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman).

McBurney charms Amy into taking him there, to avoid being captured by Confederate troops. John's arrival as an enemy but more importantly a man electrifies the all-female household, even Martha who agrees to let John stay out of Confederate custody. Purely for Christian reasons although after sponge bathing the unconscious man, maybe not.

The school's teacher, Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), shares Martha's sexual repression and concern for John's health. When he's better, perhaps John would whisk Edwina away from her dissatisfied life at the seminary. Oldest student Alicia (Elle Fanning) is sexually awakened by John's presence while others develop tamer infatuations.

John notices their attention and begins exploiting it, at first merely to extend his stay and eventually for more intimate purposes. John's intentions remain too guarded by Farrell's performance, at times only a slight expression shy of suggesting he's dishonest. On the other hand, Fanning oozes Alicia's intent through coquettish pouts and poses. The film's best turn comes from Dunst, whose dourness brightens a tad each time Edwina converses with John or catches his glance.

In both versions The Beguiled is a slim tale, more dread than terror. Yet while Siegel's movie carried the sweet smell of schlock Coppola's version nearly chokes on its own prestige. This is certainly a gorgeous production, filmed in mossy shadow by Philippe Le Sourd and artfully costumed by Stacey Battat. But if any material deserves hysteria, it's this, some over-the-top rebuttal to Coppola's reserve.

Take for example Kidman's performance, the only comparison with the 1971 movie not falling in the new version's favor. She's fine but Geraldine Page's portrayal of Martha is more effective since she's older, not as attractive. We understand why McBurney would flirt with a woman as lovely as Kidman (or Dunst versus Elizabeth Hartman for that matter). Eastwood hitting on older, spinsterish women makes McBurney's motivation more unsavory, the women's submission more pathetic and their revenge sweeter. Everyone in Coppola's The Beguiled is almost too pretty to believe.

Yet it's interesting to see a male perspective movie about women like Siegel's The Beguiled reconsidered by a modern woman as Coppola does. Her movie is another step forward for femme-centric cinema in a summer of several.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

 
Comments
What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

MondayDavid Letterman: The Mark Twain Prize, 9 p.m., PBS: A special celebrating the work of Late Night and The Late Show host David Letterman.SERIES PREMIERE: Big Hero 6 the Series, 8 p.m., Disney Channel: The new animated series takes place after th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 21

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 21

Ice Skating at Tampa’s Winter Village: Even in Florida, you can get in the holiday spirit by ice skating on an outdoor rink in the park. Each 90-minute session includes skate rental. Stop by the cafe for themed drinks and holiday snacks. 10 a.m., Cur...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’ has a Dia de los Muertos theme and is, well, lifeless

Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’ has a Dia de los Muertos theme and is, well, lifeless

Disney-Pixar’s Coco was more enjoyable three years ago when it was titled The Book of Life and came from Twentieth Century Fox.Both animated features spring from Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos celebration, the annual "day of the dead" when departed rela...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 23

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 23

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens: More than 2 million twinkling lights transform the park into a holiday wonderland with Rudolph, Sam the Snowman, Christmas-themed entertainment and visits with Santa. Included with admission on select nights through D...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 22

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Nov. 22

Much Ado About Nothing: William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy gets an update by placing lovers Beatrice and Benedick against the backdrop of the Florida Keys as World War II is drawing to a close. Through Dec. 10. 7 p.m., American Stage Theatre Compa...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Take small bites.This may be the most crucial advice for Thanksgiving hosts who don’t have years of cooking and coordinating experience to provide the confidence that comes with leading the charge on the year’s biggest cooking day.It’s the first thin...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Musicians unite at AMAs in wake of tumultuous year

Musicians unite at AMAs in wake of tumultuous year

The 2017 American Music Awards marked a night of unison, positive vibes and American pride as musicians spoke about coming together in a year dominated by natural disasters, violence and divisive politics.Kelly Clarkson and Pink kicked off the three-...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Review: Et Cultura festival brings exceptional music, leaves room for growth in St. Petersburg

Review: Et Cultura festival brings exceptional music, leaves room for growth in St. Petersburg

It's a big idea, St. Petersburg's Et Cultura festival. You can't take it all in at once. You probably wouldn't want to.Yet in just two years Et Cultura has positioned itself as a cultural movement to be reckoned with in a city that loves and embraces...
Published: 11/20/17
American wines red, white and sparkling for your Thanksgiving table

American wines red, white and sparkling for your Thanksgiving table

You’ve dusted off Grandma’s good crystal for the Thanksgiving table. Or you’ve pulled out all your mismatched stems to have enough for every place. Now what to pour?For this most American meal, based on foods native to America — turkey, pumpkin, corn...
Published: 11/20/17

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMarquette vs. VCU2:30 p.m.ESPN2Wichita State vs. California4:30 p.m.ESPN2Molloy at St. John’s6:30 p.m.FS1UCLA vs. Creighton7 p.m.ESPNUTexas A&M vs. Oklahoma State7 p.m.ESPN2Jackson State at Maryland7 p.m.Big TenWomen: Butler at...
Published: 11/19/17