Anytime someone with the last name of Coppola releases a new film attention is paid to it. A lot of attention. Fair or not that is burden that Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicide) has had to shoulder with each of her films. This, her latest film, is a little bit of a departure for her in that it is a period piece that has to do with a specific time in American history. The Civil War. She has done period pieces before with Marie Antoinette and The Virgin Suicides but this one feels a little different.
We are in 1864, a couple of years into the American Civil War. In Virginia there is a school for girls which operates out of a large mansion. Despite the war going on around them, Miss Martha Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies is still functioning with a couple of teachers and a few students who could not make it home. One of the five remaining students goes out to collect mushrooms one day and finds much more. What she finds is an injured Union soldier. Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell – In Bruges, The Lobster) is a deserter with a severely injured leg.
Despite the fact that he is fighting for the opposite side head mistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman – Moulin Rouge, Cold Mountain) decides to bring him in and nurse him back to health. Her plan is that when he is better she will turn him over to the Southern army. Having a man in the midst seems to really do a number on the women. Miss Martha, teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst – Interview with the Vampire, Hidden Figures) and even teenage student Alicia (Elle Fanning – Maleficent, Teen Spirit) are all affected by this attractive man. And he is smart and not above using his charms to get his way. They all fall victim, in one way or another, to that. Find him very beguiling.
A similarity is the large female cast. Plus the fact that she is working with Kirsten Dunst again. Dunst is once again playing a slightly bitchy and sheltered character that she has pretty much perfected over her career. In not much of of variance in regards to story and this actresses’s career, Nicole Kidman is pretty much playing the same type of character. The only performance of interest is that of Elle Fanning. This young lady is accumulating quite a little CV in short order. She seems to play a different character each time out.
This is a remake of a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood. While there are changes the center of the story remains intact. You might think agree that something from almost 50 years ago does need a little freshening up, but what was done was actually detrimental to characters, their development and the fleshing out of the characters. Everything now seems to be rather shallow and loads happens without explanation of any sort. Maybe Sophia Coppola, who also wrote the screenplay based on the Thomas Cullinan novel, thought this upped the tension and unpredictability of the story. What it actually does is cause frustration because we have no indication as to why characters are acting the way they do.
-A Shift in Perspective
-A Southern Style
-Previews of Nocturnal Animals, Hyde Park on Hudson, Loving, Dallas Buyers Club, The Danish Girl, Suffragette