Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Beguiled is a dull, pointless remake and a sad sign of the times

By Sati. Tuesday, October 3, 2017 , , , , , , , ,
2017
The Beguiled has been one of my most anticipated movies of the year. The story of young girls and their teachers finding a wounded soldier and taking care of him in isolated school seemed like such a great idea with wonderful potential. My expectations for the movie were even greater since Sofia Coppola won best director award for this film in Cannes. Unfortunately, the film has turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year, Coppola's worst movie and one of the worst remakes I've ever seen.

I spent most of my anticipation lamenting that Hugh Jackman wasn't cast as a soldier. After all, the part was played by Clint Eastwood in the original and Jackman bears a resemblance to him. Also it would be a different role for him and he plays seductive villains so well. So imagine how bad The Beguiled remake must be when one of my first thoughts after watching it was that I'm glad Hugh didn't waste his time on this. IMDb trivia page contains this disgusting information - "according to reports, the producers aimed to find a "Chris Pratt-type of lead" for the male character. Colin Farrell was eventually cast." So it is possible for the film to be even worse if Pratt was indeed cast. They dodged a bullet, unfortunately that was the only bullet they dodged.
1971
Jordan warned me in his great review that if I see the original I will absolutely hate the remake. But I figured it's only fair to watch the first adaptation of the novel. So I did and I really liked it. In the 1971 version the school much like in the remake is a home to the students, the headmistress and the teacher. But unlike in the remake there is also a character of black slave, Hallie. Coppola faced criticism over excluding that character. Her defenders pointed out that Coppola took a different approach focusing on the impact the soldier has on white women. But the problem is not only because of the terrible script Coppola's intentions didn't translate at all but that the slave was actually the strongest of the female characters in the original - she was compassionate to the soldier while not letting him manipulate her. I see no legitimate reason for not including this character in this version and the story is impoverished in effect.

The remaining relationships are crippled in the remake to such an extent I was genuinely embarrassed watching it right after the 1971 version. Take the headmistress played in the original by Geraldine Page and by Nicole Kidman in the remake. In the original, we see flashbacks to her incestuous relationship with her brother showing the viewer she has previous experience with forbidden attraction. That subplot is completely missing in the new version. Another relationship is between the soldier and teenage student - Carol in the original (played by actress Jo Ann Harris, 22, who actually began an affair with Eastwood, 41, on the set of the film. Imagine that happening now? What a scandal it would be thanks to the times we live in. Imagine if Farrell hooked up with Fanning. People would treat her like she was a victim and not a grown up capable of making her own decisions and call him a predator. We would never hear the end of it) and Alice played by Elle Fanning in the remake. This is also something that isn't portrayed well in the remake - Fanning, while she is doing her best, can't master enough seduction though the awful script where nothing is properly established and big events come out of nowhere.
2017
Arguably the most similar plot is the love the teacher Edwina has for the soldier. She was played by Elizabeth Hartman in the original who gave a wonderful performance convincing the audience of her feelings for the stranger. In the remake she is played by Kristen Dunst who is usually hit or miss for me and her efforts too are hindered by the script. What largely cripples the story is the lack of the information that makes the audience aware of the intensity of this woman's loneliness -when Edwina touches the soldier in the original we hear the voice-over that she wants to feel the man's body. There's nothing like this here and as much as Coppola and her defenders try to convince people the glances and looks are enough to show it, they simply aren't. In the hands of capable director working with the good script they would be but this is Coppola's most pitiful effort to date and the script feels like it was several lines written on a napkin.

But the worst thing Coppola has done comes down to the character of a soldier. In the original he is purposefully manipulating the women which we see when the audience is privy to the flashbacks showing the complete opposite of the claims he is making. That portrays him as someone devious and thanks to that, when the women driven by the jealousy retaliate they are not coming off as evil. In the remake there is none of that so when they do certain things they are just coming off as horrible people. I'm not sure what Coppola was trying to do but she managed to make one of the most misogynistic films of the last few years. The soldier's only crime is not turning down Alice's advances which ultimately costs him his life. It really comes off as something Lars Von Trier would include in his top 10 of the year. It's laughable Coppola won best director in Cannes for this. She only won because she is a woman. That's not the way to make things better for women in the world of film - awarding poorly directed, lousy film just because the director happens to be female.
1971
The film also lacks in style and atmosphere. Plagued by slow pace that makes Villeneuve's most boring efforts look like Fury Road in comparison and endless shots of the house and the trees the film actually feels at least twice as long as the original which was shorter than this. Some will call the cinematography beautiful. What is funny is for the film where the relationships are allegedly established in "looks and glances" you can barely see them as everything is lit with candles. I also can't help but come to the sad conclusion that this mediocre mess is truly the sign of the times. 1971 version includes Eastwood kissing thirteen year old girl on the lips, nudity and hallucinatory fever threesome dream. How is it possible that the film that was made 46 years ago is more daring than the one made now? It's because the filmmakers these days are horrified of crossing any lines and in their pursuit of pleasing the MPAA and political correctness-obsessed crowd they are sacrificing the story. You take out a bit here, a bit there, and what is left is a skeleton of a story. You cannot tell the story of desire and jealously if you take away all of the passion out of it. This film is lifeless, when the original was bursting with emotion in every single scene.

Hell, even the scene with the turtle getting killed is tame. In the original the soldier violently throws him, killing him. We see the little girl's anguish, the blood on her pet's body and we also see the soldier's immediate remorse - apologizing to the girl and really feeling horrible about what happened. In the remake there is no blood, instead of the remorse there's just "Amy.." being uttered". In the effect the weight of what happened - enough to make the girl's later actions make sense in the original - in the remake amounts to yet another thing that makes no sense. In the original the remorse soldier depicted was also one of the little things showing that even though he did horrible things he still had good in him. Here it's a quick blink-and-you-miss-it moment.
2017
You cannot rely on characters and actors carrying the film when the characters are paper thin, actors have little to work with and the entire thing seems to be terrified of crossing any sort of line. Don't tell me Coppola wanted to be subtle as unlike in the original we actually see the sexual act between the soldier and Edwina. The one thing that wasn't tame was actually pointless in the context of the story and 80 minutes filled with waste preceding it. It was also completely superfluous and unnecessary so amazingly Coppola's film came off as both tame and gratuitous at the same time.

Coppola said that her film isn't the remake but it's simply another take on the novel. I had not read the novel so I cannot speak to that, but it seems to me that the only differences between the films are simply taking away everything that could be controversial, ironically along with that taking away all the development of the characters. The most hysterical thing here is that this version has the soldier join the fight for money so he is literally just some poor guy who was desperate and got scared at the battlefield and run away, only to fall into the trap of these insane (as there is no proper reasoning for their actions here) women. Seriously, someone ask Lars about this film, he'd love it.
1971
The only thing that is really worthy of praise here are the actors who really try their best. I cannot blame Kidman, Fanning or even Dunst for any of the end results seeing what they were working with. Farrell has proven time and time again that even in the most horrendous stuff he at least tries to do something. He created a very charming character here, charming in a sweet way which only made the female characters look even worse. In fact, Farrell is now the front runner to win the Matthias Schoenaerts' characters in 2015 (in the films people actually saw) RUN award. And the film, had it not been for Baby Driver, would have a very good shot at winning the most boring movie of the year award.

Watch the original instead and stay far, far away from this one.

The Beguiled, 1971 - 84/100
The Beguiled, 2017 - 45/100

27 comments:

  1. I still prefer Coppola's version than Don Siegel's version due to the fact that it's less creepier, its emphasis on what is happening now than use any flashbacks, and more usage of the entire ensemble. I do like what Siegel did as it has this very dark and Gothic look yet I was more entranced by what Coppola was doing visually. Then again, I'm a Sofia fanboy so my point is kind of pointless.

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    1. I generally like Sofia's movies but this one was just so dull to me, especially since I saw it right after watching the original

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  2. Hehehe, had a feeling you'd agree with me on this! Excellent analysis

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    1. Thank you! You were 100% spot on here.

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    2. As were you! You really went into to detail and kudos cos you essentially took what I had thought of it but really dove deep into the analysis.

      Good job =]

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    3. I was just so mad at that thing :P

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  3. I agree the 71 film was excellent and that was enough for me. I've like Sofia's previous films, judging from your honest review this remake is too safe/tame.

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    1. It's the definition of tame :) I'm just baffled this got awards

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  4. I still honestly don't understand what Coppola wanted to do with this material. It doesn't reflect her style as a director whatsoever...it's like a totally random blip in her career. Such a damn shame, because I treasure most of her work, but this is just....unnecessary.

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    1. It actually fits with her other films for me, I was excited that she is doing this one because I thought the story will allow her to show something riskier and more passionate than she usually does but she just completely removed all of the exciting stuff from this story

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  5. I never saw the original so I can't compare the two. I didn't even know there were flashbacks in it. I didn't love this but I didn't hate it either. I think it worked for the most part, but not having seen the original I don't have anything to compare it too.

    I agree with you about Elle not knowing what to do with her role, I think she was very miscast. She can't do seductive.

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    1. The flashbacks there are extremely brief, it's more glimpses but they are so important because they help develop the characters.

      Elle was really doing her best, I think but the script really failed her

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  6. great review! I'd have watched this for colin farrell only, now I'll have a lookout for the original!

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    1. Colin is literally the only reason to see this one :)

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  7. My only question is:
    How come Sofia Coppola won Best Director award if she only oversimplifies everything that Don Siegel's version did better?

    I almost resented this, but I spared this for Angourie Rice and Oona Lawrence.

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    1. Because she is a woman. I think this is genuinely the only reason she won.

      Oh yeah they were very good. Sadly Rice didn't have much to do, i think she had less than 10 lines

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  8. Sorry to hear this movie didn't do it for you. I found versions interesting, but each to their own. If we all agreed, it would be very boring.

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    1. It just really bored me so bad especially since I saw it right after watching the original for the very first time

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  9. This is a remake no one asked for.

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  10. I regret not reading your reviewing before wasting money. I haven't seen the original but now I feel like I should. I'm sure I'm going to love that one.

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    1. You should totally watch the original it's really a whole other class of a movie!

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  11. Coppola again proves that she is dull.. ugh. You have Farrell, willing to probably show off his ass!!! (god knows we have seen much more of his) and you choose not to !?!? What kind of a "best director" shit is that? Waste of my time.

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    1. It's honestly one of the most pointless movies in years.

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  12. I liked this one a bit more than you, but I do agree that is was numbingly dull. I suppose one way to sum up my thoughts on it is that I saw it the day it came out, and haven't really thought about it since. Sucks, as I'm such a fan of Coppola's films.

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    1. I only thought about it since when I kept discouraging others from seeing it :) The original is better in every way

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