(US - 2017)
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, Emma Howard. (R, 93 mins)
Based on Thomas P. Cullinan's 1966 Civil War-set novel A Painted Devil, THE BEGUILED was previously made into a film in 1971 by director Don Siegel. A departure at the time for star Clint Eastwood, who would have DIRTY HARRY in theaters later that year, THE BEGUILED was a badly marketed box-office flop though its reputation has improved significantly over time. It's especially interesting in hindsight when viewing it as part of the entire Eastwood canon, as it's a fascinating look at a masculine, archetypal Eastwood character having the tables turned on him by a boarding school full of women he's manipulated and betrayed (though it also shares a common theme with the later and far more sordid and sleazy TIGHTROPE, where once again Eastwood is a character surrounded by women--in that case, prostitutes and other sex workers--throwing themselves at him and he's never once shown paying). Sofia Coppola's remake, also called THE BEGUILED, approaches the story more from the POV of the women, though it hasn't been without controversy: a slave character named Hallie (played by Mae Mercer in the 1971 film) has been dropped, her absence explained in an early bit of a dialogue where someone says "The slaves all left." In addition, the character of Edwina, played by Kirsten Dunst, was biracial in the novel, but it's never mentioned here, nor was "whitewashing" brought up in 1971 when Elizabeth Hartman played the same role, but perhaps critics and film enthusiasts had more pressing issues to bitch about in 1971. Neither the novel nor the 1971 film had any big salient points to make regarding race or slavery, because it's not what the story is about. Coppola explained her reasoning being that girls and young women tend to be drawn to her films (THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, THE BLING RING), and she didn't want a black female to be portrayed in any negative way that distracted from the story.