Written & Directed By: Sofia Coopola
Based On The Novel By: Thomas Cullinan
Based On the Screenplay by: Grimes Grice & Albert Maltz
Cinematography By: Philippe Le Sourd
Editor: Sarah Flack
Music By: Phoenix
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice
Three years into the senseless American Civil War, in 1864, the dilapidated mansion of Miss Martha Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies is still running, occupied by the matriarch, a teacher and five students in Spanish moss-draped Virginia. However, when a young student stumbles upon Corporal John McBurney, a wounded Union deserter on the verge of death, the already frail balance of things will be disrupted, as the hesitant headmistress decides to take him in to heal from his injury. Little by little, as the unwelcome guest arouses an uneasy sexual excitation among the women of the secluded boarding school, it is not before long that they will find themselves competing for the alluring man’s favour. Undoubtedly, this handsome devil is a manipulator, nevertheless, will the ladies stay forever beguiled by his charm?
I am a fan of the original movie. Knowing this is based on a novel I don’t know which one of the two films follows the book closer. Though I will admit the 1970’a one is more exploitive. it also adds more thriller elements and keeps the film on edge. This one is more tame and seeks to hold it’s emotions and intentions under the surface. Just as most of the characters do.
This film unfortunately is underwhelming while it keeps to the overall story. It is a thriller with no thrills. That to create dramatic tension overall.
It’s always not necessarily a good sign when you notice more production design and costume design rather than anything else. Those qualities should just go naturally with a film that is good or keeps you interested as an added bonus or matches how good each part of the film. If you can point it out above all else. It is either distraction or the best part of the experience. That is what happens here.
One of the more conventional films of Sofia Coppola’s career. The film still stays in her style only it has a bit more of a story driving it throughout while the filmmaker still has her flourishes. She has stated that this film is not a remake but an adaptation of the original novel.
Even as short as the film ends it feels longer than it should. As the film seems to have potential that never quite comes to the surface and seems to come to an end just when things seem to actually awaken.
It’s a departure to actually have the tape told from the women’s point of view more. As they end up being more cunning and dangerous then they seem. Even if they are kind of the heroines of the film they are truly the danger. Where as the film presents Colin Farrell the only male character as the dangerous and evil one taking advantage of the situation.
Now at least in the original there were other elements left to be discovered and shown. As well as showing the characters past and plenty of scenes of suspense. It also had the inclusion of a female slave. We saw most of the women’s issues, desires and past that drove them as well as how they all saw the male character
Now while I can understand taking the slave character out of the narrative to not ground the film in race. The inclusion of the character would remind us of the times and the lay of the land. As well as giving another actress of color a Janice to play the role, but maybe also giving the character somewhat some more dignity. Some of the elements could have come into play while still having a strong female point of view.
One of the reasons for the absence might be because they want to leave out the fact that the audience would be reminded these are confederate characters.
By the end the strength of these women is shown and implied but feels more like an origin or before sorry for any future characters who might cross their paths. As the film feels more like a small scale period, melodramatic piece. Full of drama.
Though one character and their arc did strike me. It was that if Kirsten Dunst’s character who is eager to leave and get out of the place and her hopes of finding love, romance and a husband. So badly she will take to the first man she see’s coming. Though she is close to the school and the characters. They represent the past and are holding her back from this new adventure she could have. Though she knows better she wants to believe in the fantasy.
The film just feels like it has no opinion and wants to leave a lot either to the audience, vague or implied but it also feels like there is no driving force to any of this film. It’s a thriller that plays more like a drama.
I have to say this is so far the most disappointing films I have seen of Coppola. As even THE BLING RING had potential yet came off just as non-committed but at least it felt like that film had something to say and offered plenty of distractions to keep you invested. She did win Best Director at the Cannes film festival. the first time a woman has won the award in 50 years. So then again what do i know.
This film asks a lot of you and more interested in you getting lost in the build up and other elements going around in the film. Rather than the story and moving the film forward.
It seems to want to keep us in a portrait of the past and live it, experience it and then remembers it must also tell a story and move us forward with it.
You can see the ideas and why this film was made. As it offers to look at the story in a different way and from a different point of view. Even if dropping some aspects and characters. While also proceeding with a different mood and tackling the story without so much exploitation, but by the end any potential seems wasted.
If I didn’t know better it feels like a film that while filmed more secluded it desires to be epic. Like this is a cut down version rather than the desired final cut