**** (out of 4)
In 1971, Dirty Harry director Don Siegel decided to helm the first movie adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s novel The Beguiled. From a simple premise – during the Civil War, a wounded Northern soldier named John McBurney is taken in by a group of Southern women, and neither party has had serious contact with the opposite sex in years – Siegel constructed a film that only feels more dated with each passing year. Clint Eastwood’s Corporal McBurney comes off as a saint-like man whose less savory actions – making out with middle-school girls, threatening to rape slaves – can all be forgiven with a few mea culpas.  Each of the women, moreover, falls neatly into one of the two reigning stereotypical depictions of female characters in film: the passive maiden or the evil temptress. Add in Siegel’s usage of a happy slave, and you’ve got a movie that promotes a blatantly false view of gender, race, and history.
Thankfully, Sofia Coppola’s refreshing remake of The Beguiled gets rid of all the aforementioned tropes. But more than that, it’s also darker than Siegel’s version, both literally and figuratively. Continue reading