Remakes are good when you haven’t seen the original. While I can’t speak to that film, the people involved with this one have me very excited.
Synopsis: At a girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War, where the young women have been sheltered from the outside world, a wounded Union soldier is taken in. Soon, the house is taken over with sexual tension, rivalries, and an unexpected turn of events. (IMDB)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Kirsten Dunst
Writer: Sofia Coppola
Director: Sofia Coppola
Running Time: 93mins
For those who didn’t know, the film is a remake of a 1971 film of the same name (after some quick research, this one is slower and leaves a few things out). Set around the time of the Civil War, a wounded soldier named John McBurney (Farrell) finds himself in an isolated girls school run by Miss Martha (Kidman). One of the best parts of the film was the atmosphere and we get it very early on. Beit the eerie score or the excellent cinematography, it helped create an immersive feel and emphasized the isolated nature of the school.
The film was more of a slow burn, gradually ramping up the tension to a satisfying conclusion. While it may be slow for some, because of the relatively short running time of just over 90 minutes, it’s not that long. What happens next shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when a man is surrounded by a group of women. Over time, they get acclimated with one another and romantic feelings begin to arise between the women and McBurney.
Based on the time, we didn’t know whether or not McBurney was really a good or a bad guy but it didn’t matter as this doubt was set aside for these romantic feelings. Things devolved into a competition between the women for McBurney’s affection. The film did a great job at capturing their various intricacies in how the women went about doing this. This attention occasionally became uncomfortable to watch but it was unclear if he was an unwilling participant.
Because most of the characters were underdeveloped, there was very little behind these advances. Miss Martha was a mother bear type who cared about the girls in her school, imparting her knowledge, and wanting her girls to succeed. Besides that, there wasn’t much to her. There wasn’t much to McBurney either. He couldn’t help but to have feelings for the women until it became something more. The deepest character of the film was a teacher at the school named Edwina (Dunst). She had the most inner conflict, wanting to have a life of her own while feeling trapped within the school. She of course perhaps sees McBurney as a way out.
The best part of the film had to be the acting, making all the characters compelling to watch. Elevated by the script and the direction, it maybe would not have been the same if other actors were involved. Farrell was great here as more of a passenger, bringing charm and showing some range. Kidman was solid as the matriarch, providing a nuanced performance, and had great chemistry with Farrell. The standout performance had to be Dunst as Edwina. As mentioned, her character had the most going on and she handled this admirably showing a range of emotions in a subtly nuanced performance.
Overall, this was a beautiful period drama that was well-executed in every regard, from the writing, acting, and directing, and features an award-worthy performance by Kirsten Dunst.
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