The 1971 Clint Eastwood film of the same name gets remade by Sophia Coppola. Set during the American Civil War in Virginia. A Union Soldier is found by a young girl wounded, she is staying at a girls school which has been vacated by most of the students and the teachers. The innocent young girl helps the wounded man back to the school. He is nursed back to health and although the all female inhabitants plan to surrender the man to the Southern army they take care of him and each of the students and teachers start to form an attachment with him. But as he gets better he starts to flirt with some of the older women and girls leading to tragic circumstances.
I vaguely remember the Clint Eastwood version of this film, I remember some of it, but not everything. I forget things, like birthdays and traffic signal meanings, but never movies. If I forget movies then that usually means I found nothing worthy of taking up residence in the mind palace that I have. That’s a long winded way of saying I have very little on in my life and movies are my home. Here I’m sure, I can pretty much make a safe bet, that I won’t remember this film for any good reason going forward.
The good parts are that it’s shot beautifully, the essence of the time is brought through in such a way that you feel you’re going back in time. That’s not an easy thing to do and they do it seemingly effortlessly here. The bad parts are everything else.
I don’t know what happens to Nicole Kidman but the majority of her roles leave you wondering if there is a pole stuck up the back of her costume, and that whispering voice is getting pretty tiring now as well. Colin Farrell, who doesn’t have to do his trademark excellent American accent, is good but slightly hammy as the Civil War Soldier who has an eye for the ladies. Kirsten Dunst feels like the only one really trying to give a higher than usual performance. But my biggest problem by far is the one note actress Elle Fanning, who over the last year, uses the same technique in every film I’ve seen her in. Other Critics seem overjoyed at this young “talent” but the doe eyed sister of Dakota has just one string to her bow and it gets old after about four minutes of the film.
Sophia Copola is a great film maker and you get the feeling that here she’s trying to get through some message, and that is another problem. The film goes nowhere, and as we build up to the conclusion a lot of effort is spent to make you think we’re going to have a charged ramp jump only to feel like you’re punching smoke. The women and girls live in harmony until men get involved is very clear, but if you want to make a point, then please, please, entertain first. The menace from all sides should have been punched through concrete rather than smoke. We don’t feel the danger that would have been a lot harsher than what is presented here.
After nearly two hours of this I was ready to just never watch another film again, if someone had told me that this was it, I would have gladly taken retirement. I don’t mind slow movies, but there has to be enough of a pay off at the end that justifies everything, here there is nothing. The Young Girl who rescues Colin from the forest gives the best performance of anyone, and considering the named talent present that should give you a clear signal of what you have in store. There is no chance that I would ever entertain watching this again for the simple reason that it’s not entertaining.
Director: Sofia Coppola
Writers: Thomas Cullinan, Albert Maltz, Irene Kamp, Srene Kamp
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning