The Beguiled ★★★★★

So, it took me a few hours after watching The Beguiled to really settle an opinion on it. For one, it’s very easy to chew into this movie. If you’re a fan of the 1971 film, then you’ll be annoyed about how little is changed narratively – or may even be pissed by the absence of a pinnacle cast member from the original. If watching Sofia Coppola’s remake is your virginal experience with the story, then it’s all going to seem a bit odd out-of-context. As much as Coppola’s film follows the same blueprint, it’s also interesting how much the female gaze has switched the film tonally. The original sits as a campy “women-are-deadly” horror film; not only making Eastwood a victim for the sake of terror, but also playing up the sexuality of its female characters for the sake of freak-show entertainment. Crazy chicks under the male gaze; attractive, but dangerous – and, I guess, vicarious.

What Coppola’s film does, instead, is turn the story into some kind of twisted black comedy. I did not expect this. I wasn’t expecting an inch of humor in this film, but what I got was a film so dressed-up like a typical Sofia Coppola movie (it does look gorgeous), but also surprisingly accessible to those who are usually turned-off from her trademarks. A lot of that has to do with its cheeky sense of humor, and the snarky, melodramatic way the ensemble delivers it. I haven’t laughed as hard in a while as I did during Elle Fanning’s big crying moment (I wish I could have a gif of it, immediately) – or when Nicole Kidman’s praying among the group of girls, and the Bible verses start to sound like euphemisms.

I can understand anybody that dislikes it – but with some context of the original, it makes for a fascinating film. Because simply switching the gaze of the director/writer from male to female, you get a different perspective – and not only that, but a different tone, as well. The Beguiled takes the dated ridiculousness of its female characters in 1971, and morphs it in a self-aware way without ditching the core darkness of the original story. It’s like Coppola knew what to do to make it a better film.