Coppola understands teenage girls – shots of girls giggling in bed together are practically her trademark. She captures their neediness and intensity with humor and affection. With “The Beguiled”, Coppola takes up her darkest topic so far without distractions and interruptions. Still, she does it with a laugh.
“The Beguiled” follows a group of girls and their two teachers who are isolated in their boarding school while the civil war rages outside. Amy (Oona Laurence) finds a wounded soldier (Colin Farrell) and takes him to school, where Martha (Nicole Kidman) allows him to stay in a secluded bedroom, locked up and away from her girls. As the days go by, the women and girls become obsessed with the soldier, leading to confessions of love, growing discomfort and danger, and, logically, mutilation.
Unlike the book the film is based on (and the 1971 adaptation with Clint Eastwood), Coppola isn’t interested in the plot. She enjoys the Southern Gothic scenery, the way the girls react to Colin Farrell, and the way he goes from being a charming and handsome man to an incredibly legitimate man. “The Beguiled” surprises us with Coppola’s delight and her ability to laugh despite the pervertedness while following in the footsteps of great films that instill a feminine sense of security and intimacy only to forcibly disturb the calm by being a man introduces.