4 years since releasing The Bling Ring, Academy-Award winning director Sofia Coppola is back behind the camera for this year's remake of 1971's The Beguiled.

Don Siegel's 1971 adaptation of the novel A Painted Devil is somewhat of a classic, following an injured Union Soldier that ends up being taken in by an all-female boarding school and finds himself conning these girls' feelings and getting to them to turn on one another. When it was revealed that Sofia Coppola would be tackling this iconic story from the females' perspectives, assembling a cast featuring the likes of Nicole KidmanElle FanningKirsten Dunst and Colin Farrell, this year's The Beguiled looked very promising on paper. But, sadly, this promise of a great film from one of the most current female voices in directing doesn't translate to the screen like it could have and should have and doesn't really innovate on the source material.
That's not to say that The Beguiled is a bad film, it's far from it. When you have someone at the helm as talented as Coppola, you know that the filmmaking will be nothing short of brilliant. And, from a technical standpoint, this film shines with craftsmanship; there is a palpable sense of commandment to the direction, with camerawork that is pensive and meticulous - stalking and lingering around its characters with such focus; letting the actors and the dialogue command the scene and drive the narrative. There is a very stripped down and simplicity to the film; it never oozes style nor does it ever try to be too flashy or grandiose - there's an authenticity to it in that regard. The cinematography is stunning, with lots of shots just capturing the beauty of the location; there's a lot of autumnal hues and a colour palette offering up a lot of similar colours but it's gorgeous. Coppola really captures this late 1800's aesthetic and setting very convincingly - stylistically and tonally, too. There is often a horror aesthetic on offer too, utilising it's very remote and rural environment to create an unpredictable and unnerving atmosphere - almost like a haunted house vibe within this school at times - and it's frankly quite chilling and beautiful.

Where The Beguiled falls short, though, is in its characterisation and dialogue - both of which feel rather stilted and contrived. The setup teases a lot of interesting character arcs but they're never really explored deeper than a few lines here and there and there is a lack of much nuance and depth to anyone apart from Colin Farrell's Corporal McBurney; the narrative itself always feels too scared to break free of its own shortcomings and takes a good while to really go anywhere interesting - beyond mere setup (which is what a lot of this film feels like it is; interesting setup, albeit, but no real exploration beyond this). As far as the writing goes, there isn't much of a naturalistic flow to the proceedings and the dialogue and it often comes off as quite expository and, again, contrived - there is the occasional scene which is witty and darkly funny, though, but even these feel peculiarly placed and very few and far between. Coppola has always had a way with actors and The Beguiled offers up a plethora of impressive performances. Kidman, Dunst and Fanning all turn in very strong work as our three central "love interests" for McBurney and Farrell himself is great in the role - really bringing a lot of charisma to his lead. However, it's just a shame that no one really gets any meaty dialogue or characterisation to mull over and eschew to really stand out. What it essentially boils down is this: The Beguiled is visually beguiling and fascinating enough to remain competent and watchable for its runtime but lacks any real compelling edge or depth to be the great film it could have been and anything more than forgettable once you leave the cinema.

The Beguiled is visually beguiling and gorgeous but lacks the compelling edge to truly shine and be anything more than competent.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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