A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Beguiled is director Sofia Coppola's poetic remake of a 1971 Clint Eastwood movie based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan. It's a Civil War drama that tells the story of a wounded Union soldier who's taken in by all-girls school. Though there's no graphic nudity, viewers will see two sex scenes, one of which has a rough feel and includes thrusting. There's also some kissing, a suggestive sponge bath, and general sexual tension. Bloody wounds are shown, plus blood spatters, a gory broken leg, and a leg being amputated. A man screams in pain, rages with anger, and grabs a woman's hair. Guns are heard booming in the distance throughout the movie, and a character shoots at a chandelier, crashing it to the floor. A character is poisoned. Language is minimal; the word "bitches" is used once. The main male character gets staggering drunk, and there's some social drinking.
What's the story?
In THE BEGUILED, a Southern all-girls school is still operating as the American Civil War rages. One of the younger girls goes out picking mushrooms in the woods and comes upon a wounded Union soldier by the name of John McBurney (Colin Farrell) and brings him back to the schoolhouse. Headmistress Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) treats his wounds but doesn't want to keep him there any longer than necessary. Meanwhile, teacher Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst) and one of the older students, Alicia (Elle Fanning), are drawn to him. McBurney starts charming each of the women in different ways, perhaps in an effort to preserve his own life -- or perhaps to exert power over the house. Unfortunately, when he gives in to desire one night, it sets off a series of disastrous consequences.
Is it any good?
Plotwise, director Sofia Coppola doesn't change much from Clint Eastwood's 1971 take on novelist Thomas Cullinan's story, but moodwise, she gives it her own special, dreamy-thoughtful visual style. Her version of The Beguiled excises a black female slave character who was in the original film, as well as some disturbing flashback sequences; it's none the worse for these changes. With the focus squarely on the battle taking place in the movie's present between the sexes in the house, Coppola allows room for poetic subtleties.
She gets to a primal, physical place with her exquisite, commanding use of sound and place. The natural world -- including the light from windows and the crunch of dry leaves -- is all around. (It's no mistake that things of the Earth, a turtle and mushrooms, represent major turning points.) It brings the characters to an organic state in which feelings are stronger than reasoning. Pinned up in their period costumes or laid up in bed, they carry the appearance of civilized humanity, but their wants and desires rule underneath the surface.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex portrayed? Is it part of a loving relationship? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values on this topic.
What is a "battle of the sexes"? What are they fighting over? Why can't they get along?
If you've seen Eastwood's original movie, how does this one compare? What about to Thomas Cullinan's novel?
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