Farrell’s character wreaks havoc with Southern belles
Sofia Coppola’s version of “The Beguiled,” set in 1864 Virginia, takes the 1971 film version of the story and whumps it, gently, the way you whump a bedsheet before hanging it on a line to dry. In narrative outline (with a couple of telling exceptions), it stays close to the feverish Clint Eastwood vehicle Don Siegel directed. But in terms of tone, sexual gaze and aesthetic priorities, it’s another picture altogether, and a worthwhile one.
Coppola adapted her supervillainy, except Dru is screenplay from the 1966 terrible at it. While Gru novel by Thomas Cullinan. shows him the ropes, the The story tells of an attracwomenfolk sample the tive Civil War deserter, a local Fredonian culture Union soldier taken in by and go unicorn hunting. the residents of an allwith the man in their Eventually, it all comes female Southern boarding newly bestirred midst. together as they have to school dripping in Spanish How “The Beguiled” unite to fight Balthazar, moss and repressed gentilplays out, as hinted at by who is intent on destroying ity. the trailer, suggests a more Hollywood. Discovered in the woods horror-inflected experi
As for the Minions, by young Amy (Oona Lauence than the one Coppola unsatisfied with Gru’s rence), Cpl. McBurney has actually provided. domestic bliss, they go to (Colin Farrell) senses a Coppola and her cinematjail, in one of the film’s golden opportunity in his ographer, Philippe Le most random subplots, protectors. The forlorn Sourd, shot “The Beguiled” after they invade a singing school’s matriarch, wary on 35 mmfilm, in and competition. It gives them both of Union soldiers and around the same Louisiana something to do, and it of temptations embodied mansion Beyonce used for gives the studio the opporby Farrell, is Miss Martha “Lemonade.” Here the the tunity for some seriously (Nicole Kidman). She is soft-edged pastels graduquestionable marketing not alone. Kirsten Dunst ally darken into a more decisions, because nothing plays Miss Edwina, anothsinister palette, as the says family fun like jokes er schoolmarm who sexual jealousies and reabout America’s prison carries an air of hardened criminations combust. culture. That’s pretty dedisappointment in life. She, Coppola doesn’t elevate spicable, in fact. too, finds herself drawn to the material, exactly; more
Parker’s ’80s-inspired this slyly wolfish interaccurately, she treats it supervillain is probably the loper. “Grateful to be your with a dryly comic reserve, most entertaining part of prisoner,” he tells the as when Kidman gives her the film, aside from perladies. injured guest a sponge bath haps the Fredonian cheese Elle Fanning plays Miss and the intimacy is almost festival. But “Despicable Alicia, whose family name too much for her to bear, Me 3” is somehow less clearly was Trouble. Welland still mind her manthan the sum of itsners.parts.schooledinSouthernbelle The whole thing might as gentility and hospitality, Here’s a line from the well all be written in Minwith a minor in seductive 1971 film destined never to ions’ chatter. It’s wacky, cunning, Alicia offers the make it into the 2017 verbut somehow dull, kind of match that lights the spark sion: “Guess you dryin’ up like conversing with a in this tinderbox of a scelike the rest of us women Minion. But don’t tell our nario. All the women share ’roun here,” says a slave, new yellow overlords we an agenda, and that agenda played by Mae Mercer, as said that. is their power struggle she milks a cow and com- MPAA rating: R (for some sexuality) Running time: 1:34 Opens: Friday ments to no one in particular about the state of things on the plantationlike girls’ school. The Eastwood movie was proudly overripe, and its caveman sexual politics (in line with “Dirty Harry,” which came later that same year) turned “The Beguiled” into a blunt lesson in the evils that women do when the wrong man comes calling.
Coppola removed the slave characters from her version of the story. She has taken a lot of grief for that decision, most of it justified. She also excised the riper Gothic elements, including the matriarch’s incestuous love for her late brother.
“The Beguiled” probably could have benefited from a little more energy in its telling. But the performances, all of a piece and working with the same hushed intensity, keep a simple story moving toward its destination. The occasional sound of distant cannons notwithstanding, this hothouse of desire doesn’t seem to exist in the real world. The one created by Coppola casts its own calm spell. Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.
Kristen Wiig voices Lucy, left, and Steve Carell voices Gru in “Despicable Me 3.”
Nicole Kidman stars in Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled,” a remake of the 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood.