The teaser for The Beguiled has landed, a movie with a weird, difficult to navigate plot – teen girls fighting over a soldier 42 years their senior
At least one wrinkle has been bestowed upon my porcelain visage since Sofia Coppola’s last theatrical release: 2013’s epic crimedy The Bling Ring. So after a long wait, we finally get our first look at her latest project, The Beguiled. The film is a remake of the 1971 version, which stars Clint Eastwood, originally adapted from a book called A Painted Devil.
A wounded Union soldier gets lost in enemy territory during the American Civil War and is discovered by a very underage 12-year-old named Amy. She brings him back to the Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies, where he can rest under the watchful eye and attentive hand of Kirsten Dunst and a literal school full of randy young women.
All the hormones, I guess, get the best of these young girls, because they begin to act like they haven’t seen a man in their entire lives. Which, pre-Tinder, I don’t blame them. The girls take it in turns to fall in love with soldier John McBurney (Colin Farrell). What begins as a harmless crush turns into a full-blown episode of The Bachelor, where the young schoolgirls turn on each other in a blind rage in a bid to get McBurney’s attention.
Viewed through the lens of a woke guy (that’s me), the idea of teen girls fighting over a soldier 42 years their senior may seem a bit backwards. After all, the original spawned this questionable scene:
In an interview with the victim of Clint Eastwood’s kiss, 12-year-old actress Pamelyn Ferdin said: “Well, you know that was pretty interesting for me because I was...when he kissed me, it wasn’t in the script. How we rehearsed it up to the point, where they started the camera rolling – he was supposed to cover my mouth – because I saw, apparently, I was scared and he didn't want me to scream ’cos I saw some troops coming by […] I guess he had this idea that, it might be – I don’t know, a little more provocative I guess.”
So what, exactly, is Sofia Coppola – whom I feel safe pinning down as a feminist – doing making a movie where women turn on each other for an unlikely, and frankly spine-chilling, May-December relationship? Coppola has experience directing stories about teen girls (The Virgin Suicides, Somewhere), period dramas (Marie Antoinette) and morally-bankrupt hijinks (The Bling Ring). When you think about it, this is kind of right up her alley. In a time where ideology is often placed above aesthetic choice, it really doesn’t matter what Coppola chooses to direct. It’s her choice. (After all, it seems that men can do whatever they want and go on to get Oscar nominations.)
This source material couldn’t be placed in more capable hands, and judging by the one and a half minute teaser, there is a lot to get excited about. At the end, we clearly hear what is presumably Farrell’s character shouting, “What have you done to me? You vengeful bitches!” Who knows? Maybe, after looking into it, Coppola flipped the script, maybe (likely) she’ll transfer the power to the four teenage girls. Maybe she’s doing her part to rewrite history.
The Beguiled is out in cinemas June 23