The film falls firmly into the category of “I am glad this is being remade by Sofia Coppola since it is both an interesting piece of work and something she could improve upon significantly.”
The Beguiled’s most notable issue is how chirpy the young girls at the school are, with the actresses coming across as very…high strung? It’s a movie that skirts the line a bit too uncomfortably in how they are portrayed, it’s all very male gaze. I eagerly anticipate seeing Sofia C. flatten it out a bit, restrain the craziness a little. Having a dramatic chord strike while we zoom in on a portrait of Miss Martha with her brother as she prepares to change Clint Eastwood’s pants, and he dissolves into him as she kisses him…well, it’s hammy albeit in a fun way. You can tell Don Siegel is relishing the SYMBOLISM of it all. And when the ladies show up looking a bit more polished and the headmistress says “The corporal appears to be having an effect on all of us,” well, show don’t tell. The one thing the movie doesn’t tell is precisely what brand of manipulative Clint Eastwood’s character is, which doesn’t feel smoothly handled enough.
But it looks very pretty, and never moreso than here:
Once this happens, The Beguiled never looks back from the psychosexual craziness, and it’s essentially putting Corporal John in a cage. But he’s blissfully unaware, and so is the woman who he winds up becoming closest to. It is a prison of his own making but he loves it, treats it like his home and property even when it’s not his to take.