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Red Sparrow

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Red Sparrow

Spielberg. Streep. Hanks.

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The Beguiled ♚ ♛ 1/2

The story opens in Virginia 1864, with the grey-beard of Spanish moss hanging from the oak trees.  The buzz of  locusts and mosquitos weigh heavy in the heat, as a young girl, Amy (Oona Laurence) tromps down a long dusty road. The curious child comes upon an injured Union soldier, Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) shot in the leg. Amy suggests she gets the Corporal some help from Ms. Farnsworth’s seminary where she lives with other young ladies being groomed for the real world.

Upon the Corporal’s arrival, he’s met by the headmistress, Ms. Martha (Nicole Kidman) where she stashes him away in the music room that ordinarily fills space with violin and piano lessons. It’s there Miss Martha will attempt her Frankenstein surgery on his leg.

When the job is done, Miss Martha hand-bathes him along his ‘Mason-Dixon’ line of  ripped knickers and toned abs.  This is odd…since in the original Eastwood film, Miss Martha had a slave named Hallie.  By the looks of the mansion, with its protective iron gates and not a chandelier out of place, wouldn’t she have maintained her slave to clean up the bloodied soldier?

The sound of muskets and cannons provide backdrop to suggest urgency in an otherwise slow moving Southern existence of ionic columns and setting suns (and ninety-four minutes of film that at times seemed unbearable). The overall feel is that the war doesn’t even exist in this fairy tale man-held-captive household.

But as the Corporal gains his strength, the mood shifts in the house to one of sexual tension, jealousy and unintended rivalries. He falls for Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) the delicate flower who teaches perfect penmanship and French possessives, all the while being pursued by the ‘naughty’ alluring Alicia (Elle Fanning.)

As seduction ensues so do the cat fights, and the poured whiskey, the smoked hams, and the sautéed mushrooms.

Ahem…Pardon moi, but if the war is three years ‘in’ how do they churn their butter, slaughter their pigs to be smoked, and find fine digestives to be served?  In Scarlet O’Hara’s Civil War – and from what I’d imagine of the real one – houses were ransacked and women were raped. In this movie, the oil paintings and wall sconces are still hanging. Not a mud print on the oriental rugs.  The women are dressed in ironed satin gowns and corsets, leaving the film to scream “Where’s Hallie?” to serve sumptuous suppers.

It’s a strange little rose-garden remake of a 1971 Clint Eastwood movie. Directed (at present) by Sofia Coppola, she has a history of being drawn to girls-behaving-badly (The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette both also starring Coppola’s muse, Kirsten Dunst.)  Reminiscent (barely) of Kathy Bates in Misery, with just a dose of Little Women, try to get your hands on the original 1971 version, since this recent version strangles out any character development, substituting mood and farce.

Finally, if you’ve read the memoir of Emma Forrest – Your Voice in My Head – about her unnamed/badly behaving love-of-her-life-actor, let’s just say she finally got her revenge on Colin Farrell…at least with the character that’s Corporal McBurney.  Wink. 2 ½ tiaras



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