I’m not the biggest fan of Sofia Coppola. Her movies just don’t impress me. They include Bling Ring, The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, and Lost in Translation. With that list, the best thing she had going was Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, and Bow Wow Wow songs used in Marie Antoinette This movie is more like Lost in Adaptation, since she’s adapting the book, that was first made into a movie in 1971 starring Clint Eastwood. In this version, the only thing she has going for her is Philippe Le Sourd’s photography. It was shot beautifully. Even the cast — impressive in their other movies — aren’t impressive here. That’s because they’re boring characters.
The story takes place in rural Virginia, in a mansion that is being used as Christian boarding school three years into the Civil War. A girl gathering mushrooms (Oona Laurence) discovers a Union soldier (Colin Farrell) losing a lot of blood from a gunshot to the leg.
When the soldier is brought back to the school, Miss Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) doesn’t seem pleased. With a name like Martha Farnsworth, you know she’s going to be a task master. But will she succumb to his charms? Will she give him a bath and realize…hey — this is Colin Farrell and look at those abs!
The plot thickens when all the girls start developing crushes on the guy. There’s Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), as a frustrated teacher. There’s Alicia (Elle Fanning), the wild child.
The prepubescent girls all seem to have crushes on him, too. The dinner scene reminded me of Richard Gere having dinner with Debra Winger’s family in An Officer and a Gentleman.
It was a decent way to set up the fact that these girls are all, well…beguiled. The problem is that not enough time is shown to see how he works his seductive charms on them. It’s like he has one quick scene with each girl, and they’re madly in love.
There’s a black slave that took care of the Union soldier in the book and original film. Coppola will surely get some backlash for the white washing. She might also get some grief for trying to make some feminist type of statement, while the film actually has the opposite effect.
Coppola became only the second woman to win the best director prize at Cannes for this. That baffles me.
This movie needed to be darker, and the whole thing feels outdated. It also probably had a more risque vibe in 1971. Watching this version now, was just laughable.
It gets 1 star out of 5.
— Josh Board