Tag Archives: Colin Farrell

The Beguiled

beguiled-castlooks

Historical dramas can go one of two ways. They can either be syrupy, melodramatic snoozefests or they can be absorbing and utterly exquisite works of art. With The Beguiled, we get something more in sync with the latter and with an absorbing story and strong performances, we have a film that goes beyond the average cinematic work and leaves an indelible impression on its viewer.

The Beguiled has a long history, starting in 1966 when author Thomas P. Cullinan’s penned the book. Known also as A Painted Devil, the book was so impactful that it inspired a motion picture in 1971. Fast forward to today where gifted filmmaker Sophia Coppola has made The Beguiled her own and presenting it to audiences of the 21st century. It is a unique story that has endured and undergone many interpretations.

Set in rural Virginia during the Civil War, The Beguiled focuses on Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), a wounded Union soldier who has taken refuge under a large tree in the forest. He is soon discovered by a young girl picking mushrooms. McBurney is then taken to an all girls school to recuperate. The school is led by the uptight Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), who has sheltered all of the young women in the house and is cautious about allowing McBurney to stay there. Eventually, sexual tension arises, resulting in a very dark and disturbing series of events.

While The Beguiled is a very quiet film, it has a lot to say. The main conflict is intense and revolves around the young women which includes a very subdued Kirsten Dunst and a seductive Elle Fanning. McBurney is thrown into this female-only world and with an injured leg and no hope for departure anytime soon. This sets the stage for one interesting yet controversial plot.

Filmmaker Sofia Coppola has taken the tried and true story of The Beguiled and really injected life into it. Her unique style and way of shooting has made this Civil War drama something really special. The look is great, being very authentic to the time period and the set, which is basically a creaky old house is utterly terrific. Every sound the floors make hints at something either very sinister or very sexy or both.

Colin Farrell is a knockout here and his performance as the hurt soldier in a foreign realm is a fantastic showcase for the gifted actor. Nicole Kidman is also is fine form as the prim and proper headmistress. We also get a decent performance from Kirsten Dunst who plays a teacher at the girls school riddled with emotional turbulence. Elle Fanning also shines as a young girl at the school.

With the book released half a century ago and a film adaptation made over 40 years ago, this is a more than appropriate time for a remake. Due to Sophia Coppola’s fresh approach and the actors all performing beautifully, The Beguiled is a gripping and exciting film that is guaranteed to impress. It’s also worth noting that this is yet another remake Colin Farrell has starred in. He was in reimaginings of Fright Night and Total Recall and he is set to star in Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo which is currently in pre-production.

Miss Julie

Usually, films based on acclaimed stage plays are relatively decent. Sure, they don’t capture the rawness and authenticity of a live production but normally, they’re somewhat adequate in recreating the story and adding a little pizzazz to the proceedings. With August Strindberg’s 1888 play Miss Julie, the line between theater and film is crossed with a unfortunately dull screen adaptation that features three very capable actors (Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton), an attractive set and costumes but sadly, little else. Swedish Liv Ullmann filmmaker and actress helmed the film and with an impressive resume to her credit, it’s a shame Miss Julie wasn’t a bit better.

The story takes place in 1890 Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, where Julie (Chastain), the daughter of an aristocrat, desires a romance with her father’s valet, Jean (Farrell). Over the course of a midsummer night, Julie and Jean lust for one another but things take a rather dark turn, all the while, Christine (Morton), Julie’s cook (and Jean’s fiancé), stands idly by while the tryst ensues and eventually turns to pain and insanity.

The majority of Miss Julie takes place in a large kitchen and it is appropriate setting because it is large enough to present the characters in variety of physical moments and Liv Ullmann’s direction very expertly zeroes in on the characters’ faces to highlight the powerful emotions they display. Though Ullmann’s direction is spot on, even her technical ingenuity can’t save the film from the depths of boredom. The story drags and isn’t very interesting. Basically, a love affair between a mentally-unstable brat and a dashing commoner blossoms, then self destructs under the poorly made decisions by both parties in question. The premise is thin and the actors do their very best to squeeze life out of it. Unfortunately, even the talented actors can’t save the film.

Though, not a classic and based on a pretty lame story, Miss Julie is actually not completely devoid of merit. As mentioned above, the period setting provides for some rather gorgeous costumes. Consolata Boyle (The Queen, Philomena, The Iron Lady) deserves some serious recognition for the 19th century wardrobes. The characters all look as though they live during the time period and the costumes are a strong reason why. The sets also, with the main one being a kitchen, are all heavily influenced by the era and production designer Caroline Amies (In the Name of the Father, Copying Beethoven, Carrington) certainly knows what she’s doing.

Die-hard fans of August Strindberg’s work should check out Miss Julie and if you seek strong performances from Chastain, Farrell and Morton, then this film should definitely be on your “must-watch” list. Other than that, it really isn’t very interesting and the plot does meander. It’s bleak and dull and sometimes, downright unwatchable. Other than the sets and costumes, there really isn’t a lot going on here. The acting is the best part about it but even these gifted thespians can’t bring the film to grand heights. They certainly try but the end result is a serious snooze-fest.