The Beguiled

New review from The Movie Snob.

The Beguiled  (B-).  Director Sofia Coppola is back with another quiet, moody little flick (see, e.g., Lost in Translation, Somewhere).  The divine Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm) stars as Miss Martha, the headmistress of a girls’ boarding school in 1864 Virginia.  (For all my Millennial readers out there, 1864 was during the Civil War.)  Most of her students are gone, but a few are still stranded there, along with one lonely teacher, Miss Edwina (Kirsten Dunst, Wimbledon).  The ladies are getting by, but everything changes when one of the younger students goes out to gather mushrooms and returns with Corporal McBurney, a handsome Union soldier (Colin Farrell, The Lobster) with a nasty leg wound.  The ladies’ fascination with the Irishman easily overrides their initial impulse to alert the Confederate authorities, and soon they are all vying for his attention—especially the oldest student, Alicia (Elle Fanning, Super 8).  And McBurney quickly figures out the school could be a nice refuge from the rest of the war if he plays his cards right.  But can he manage the ladies’ rivalries and his own building passion?

The movie held my interest, thanks mainly to nice performances from all involved—even the younger actresses get a few scenes in which to shine.  But the plot is rather slight, there are maybe a few too many languid shots of the stately plantation house and the surrounding forest, and I wasn’t convinced by one of the character’s behavior at the end.  Still, it was nice to see the luminous Ms. Kidman in a movie that wasn’t terrible.  And at 93 minutes, the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome.  Finally, I learned in some long ago trivia game that Elvis Presley’s hit song “Love Me Tender” is written to the melody of a Civil War era song called “Aura Lee.”  I had never heard “Aura Lee” before, but I’ll be danged if one of the characters in this movie doesn’t sing a bit of it.  Nice.

Somewhere

New review from The Movie Snob

Somewhere (C). This new movie from director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) won a “Golden Lion” award at the Venice Film Festival, whatever that means. I thought it was a promising but ultimately disappointing little movie. Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff, World Trade Center) is a successful Hollywood actor, but he’s existentially stuck. The fast sportscar, the booze, and the beautiful women don’t fill the void any more. He’s fond of his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning, The Door in the Floor), but he just doesn’t see her that much. Coppola just kind of follows Marco around and observes like the proverbial fly on the wall. She shows the emptiness of his life pretty effectively, as he lives at a hotel that is apparently a known hangout for Hollywood types. (Benicio del Toro (The Wolfman) randomly appears at the hotel, sharing an elevator with Marco.) But then some scenes never really seem to go anywhere — a long scene of Cleo ice skating, for instance, or a short scene in which Marco’s car breaks down. I wasn’t satisfied with the ending, either. It’s nice to see Ellie Kemper from TV’s The Office in a movie, though.