The Beguiled

Rated 3.0

Sofia Coppola writes and directs this lovingly mounted yet strangely feeble adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s novel, which was previously brought to the screen by director Don Siegel in 1971. That version benefited from the inherent tension of a masculine pulp auteur like Siegel shepherding a sexually charged Civil War-era costume drama, but this take on The Beguiled is exactly the sort of disaffected fashion show that we’ve come to expect from Coppola. Nicole Kidman stars as a repressed headmistress waiting out the war in the Virginia wilderness with a handful of girls, among them Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. The discovery of a severely injured but charismatically manipulative Union soldier (Colin Farrell) upends their quiet lives, as his very presence seems to spur a sexual awakening in the women. Coppola surgically removes everything potentially “problematic” (i.e., interesting) about the material, then shoots what’s left through ten thousand layers of gauze. D.B.