The Beguiled ★★★★

"Is he dead?"
"No. Not yet."

Much more playful & much less suspenseful than the trailer would lead you to believe. By telling this story through the eyes of the women, Coppola is able to milk the comedy of the situation. I mean, imagine being a young, chaste girl with very little exposure to men, and then Colin fucking Farrell suddenly shows up in your home. Not to mention he's injured, weak, and seemingly downright pleasant.

Of course, nothing is ever this simple. We know going into this film, as it is a retelling of the eponymous 1966 novel, that this is not going to end well. These "vengeful bitches" add a femininity (in the conventional sense of the word) to violence. Violence does not have to mean shooting & punching & blood & guts -- it can be subtle, delicate, even polite.

During the Civil War Era, women followed 4 cardinal virtues: submissiveness, purity, domesticity, and above all, piety. Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) rebelled against submissiveness, as she frequently spoke her mind when conversing with John, and acted as the matriarch of the household. Alicia (Elle Fanning) against purity, as she came onto John despite her youth. Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) against domesticity, as she told John that she wanted to get away from "here," "here" being this gothic mansion where she teaches and does traditional housework. Lastly, without revealing any spoilers, all of the women rebelled against piety, even if they believed they were being "good Christians."

It's difficult to call this a wholly feminist film since it centers on the empowerment of white Confederate women, but at the same time, it's only fair that we get to hear the women's side of this classic story. Even the poster subverts the male gaze by objectifying John through fragmentation -- he's just a body without a head, a personality, dignity. To these women, John is a new plaything in their otherwise dull lives. They are the cats and he is the mouse. An extremely handsome mouse.

This is the first time I've ever thought this, but I wish this film was 3 hours long. It could've fit in the omitted slave girl narrative (perhaps Coppola could've collaborated with a Black writer?) and easily been an epic exploration of the cult of Southern womanhood. Oh well, 91 minutes is better than nothing.

Can't wait to see Nicole & Colin reunite in The Killing of a Sacred Deer this November!