Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Review: ‘Beguiled’

Friday, July 14, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

It’s midway through the 2017 movie year and, though it’s early in the Oscar race, “The Beguiled” is a contender.

Look for multiple Oscar nominations, including for Nicole Kidman, actress, as Miss Martha, headstrong headmistress at a young women’s academy circa 1864 Virginia during the Civil War. A wounded Union solder, Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell, likely supporting actor nominee), is given refuge at the school.

Also look for a co-writing screenplay Oscar nomination for Sofia Coppola, Albert Maltz (who was on the “Hollywood 10” House Un-American Activities blacklist; screenplays, “The Beguiled,” 1971; “Two Mules For Sister Sara,” 1970; “The Robe,” 1953; “Broken Arrow,” 1950; “The Naked City,” 1948; “The House I Live In” (an Oscar-winning short), 1945; “Mildred Pierce,” 1945; “Pride Of The Marines,” 1945; “Destination Tokyo,” 1943) and Irene Kamp (“The Sandpiper,” 1965) based on the 1966 novel (originally published as “A Painted Devil”) by Thomas Cullinan (1919-1995).

And look for a director nomination for Coppola, who received the director award at the 2017 Cannes film festival, only the second female director to do so. “The Beguiled” was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

There’s strong supporting work and more possible Oscar nominations for Kirsten Dunst as Edwinna, a teacher at the school, and Elle Fanning, as Alicia, a student at the school.

The other actors playing students are memorable: Oona Laurence (Amy), Addison Riecke (Marie), Emma Howard (Emily) and Angourie Rice (Jane). One gets the sense of the film classic, “Little Women” (1933), because of “The Beguiled” ensemble performances.

There could be technical awards, too, especially for cinematography (Director of Photography Philippe Le Sourd) of the mist-shrouded mansion and surroundings so oppressive you can almost feel the humidity.

The 1971 version of “The Beguiled,” starring Clint Eastwood as the wounded Union soldier, and directed by Don Siegel, also received critical acclaim.

To reveal too much about the plot in Coppola’s “The Beguiled” would spoil the film for you.

Kidman is extraordinary. Emotions cross her face like a sudden summer thunderstorm. Her eyes flash lightning. The next second, her lips form into a steely smile.

Dunst is delicately tentative as a young woman not in control of her emotions.

Farrell plays a range of emotions, from charm to rage, his big eyes seeing all and asking nothing.

Coppola keeps everything carefully and evenly paced. Teaching of French, cursive writing, embroidery, food preparation and serving, and prayer create an authentic sense of time and place. Costume design by Stacey Battat adds to the sense of propriety.

In the production design by Anne Ross, everything is kept in close, in sepia tones and soft focus, heightening each character’s sensual ambiguity. The film turns on a crime from lovely romantic drama to Southern Gothic horror. Throughout, the dialogue is poetic.

“The Beguiled” is exquisite cinema. It’s at once delicate and tender, powerful and gut-wrenching. It’s one of the best films of 2017 or any year.

“The Beguiled,”MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) for some sexuality; Genre: Drama; Run tine: 1 hr., 33 mins.; Distributed by Focus Features.

Credit Readers Anonymous:Exteriors of “The Beguiled” were filmed at Madewood Plantation, Napoleonville, La. The soundtrack includes the Civil War era songs, “Lorena” and “Aura Lea.” The score was composed by the rock band Phoenix.

Box Office,July 7: “Spider-Man: Homecoming” enjoyed a great welcome, opening at No. 1 with $117 million, the second-biggest 2017 opening so far, compared to “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” $146.5 million opening, and “Wonder Woman,” $103.2 million opening.

2. “Despicable Me 3” dropped one place, $33.9 million, $149.1 million, two weeks.

3. “Baby Driver” dropped one place, $12.7 million, $56.8 million, two weeks.

4. “Wonder Woman” continued at No. 4, with $10.1 million, $368.7 million, six weeks.

5. “Transformers: The Last Knight” dropped two places, $6.3 million, $118.9 million, three weeks.

6. ”Cars 3” dropped one place, $5.6 million, $133.7 million, four weeks.

7. “The House” dropped one place, $4.8 million, $18.6 million, two weeks.

8. “The Big Sick” moved up four places, with a 120.9 percent jump in box office on only 326 screens, $3.6 million, $6.9 million, three weeks.

9. “47 Meters Down” dropped two places, $2.8 million, $38.5 million, four weeks.

10. “The Beguiled” dropped two places, $2 million, $7.4 million, three weeks.

19. “The Little Hours,” starring Nazareth’s Kate Micucci, jumped up 14 places, $193.750, a 214.5 percent increase on only 37 screens, $282,023, two weeks.

Unreel,July 14:

“War for the Planet of the Apes,”PG-13: Matt Reeves directs Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn and Karin Konoval in the Science-Fiction Thriller about the leader of the apes, Caesar, on a path of revenge. This is the ninth “Planet of the Apes” movie, and that’s not including two TV series.

“The Midwife,”Unrated: Martin Provost directs Catherine Deneuve, Catherine Frot, Olivier Gourmet and Quentin Dolmaire in the Drama about a midwife who gets unexpected news.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes