The opening title that flashes across the screen is sweeping and elegant and boldly pink. It almost acts as a trademark stamp to remind us that despite the backdrop of Southern woods and the pallid saturation, we are indeed in Sofia Coppola’s hands. And rest assured, these hands know what they’re doing. What begins as the ultimate male fantasy turns into a refreshing, tables-turned kick in the ass that America needs — especially after this past year of dealing with a misogynistic sexual predator Presidential candidate turned President.
But I digress. This isn’t about politics. This is about Sofia Coppola’s vindictive beauty of a movie.
It wasn’t until about two weeks after seeing The Beguiled that I realized just how much I loved it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it when I first left the theatre — I did. Very much so. But it lingered and stayed with me. And, eventually, I realized just how much fun I had while watching it — and how I didn’t expect that at all.
Coppola effortlessly weaves suspense and comedy of manners and blends the atmospheric with the urgent. There are echoes of Jack Clayton’s The Innocents here, but Coppola manages to keep it her own. At one moment you’re getting lost in the ghostly dreamy mood and then the very next moment, you’re rubbing your hands together in anticipation of either sex or death. Sounds like a good time, right?
You can feel through the screen that everyone involved with this had a blast making it, particularly Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell, who are both at the top of their game here, savoring it all, chewing it up like fuckin’ pros. The first half of the movie essentially keeps Farrell bedridden but bathed in a ethereal light — a testosterone-y alien in this house of women, and a well-lit one at that, which only makes things more complicated. There’s a scene early on in the film in which Kidman’s character has to sponge bathe Farrell’s unconscious body. He wears a towel over his lower half — but it doesn’t leave much to the imagination. And it’s overwhelming for Kidman’s character, as she has to abruptly stop herself to catch a breath. The amount of tension in this scene is insane.
Each woman infuses their characters with their own energy and it’s incredibly entertaining to watch Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, and even Kidman herself, passive-aggressively fight for the attention of the new houseguest despite an ever-present underlying feeling of distrust throughout. Farrell does a great job of charming the pants off of us and the women, while still maintaining a sense of mystery.
Angourie Rice and Oona Laurence are also standouts among the women of the house — it’s heartbreaking to see the look on Laurence’s face towards the end when, let’s just say for the sake of avoiding spoilers, Colin Farrell gets a little testy with her pet turtle. And the final shot of these women on the porch of their imposing house, seen through the gaps in the bars of the front gate, sears itself onto your memory. Like the opening title, this image acts as a stamp. Only this time, it’s a stamp that tells us these women are here and they’re not going anywhere; they can hold their own — and don’t you dare doubt it. Just ask Colin Farrell.
So, yes, we’ve still got a handful of months left in 2017 and probably (hopefully) some great movies yet to come. But, like I said, The Beguiled, like some kind of spectral thing, clung on to me and kept me thinking and I couldn’t not write about it. This is why I love movies.
Here’s to you, Sofia Coppola. I’m eager to keep watching your shit and learning from it as well.