2017’s The Beguiled is Sophia Coppola’s remake of the 1971 classic by the same name. The basic plot is revamped with modest changes, most involving character development. Like the 1971 version, the movie follows an isolated girls’ school in the South cut off from any male presence. The appearance of an injured Union soldier disrupts life at the school, especially as some of the women become jealous over his affections. Aside from the sexual politics of the day and the soldier’s fear of being discovered in Confederate territory, there is not much explicit commentary about the Civil War itself.
Taking into consideration the movie’s modern audience and prevailing attitudes toward gender inclusiveness, Coppola focused less on the Union soldier and more on the female characters. In doing so, she gave the women more agency—power and control over their actions—than was the case in the original version. Coppola also chose to leave a female slave out of her version due to apprehension that presenting slavery only as a subplot would minimize its importance.
The film received generally favorable reviews. While not as well regarded as the original version, Coppola received respect from critics for the way she balanced the female character development on screen. Some found it to be a slow and simple story that did not live up to the legacy of the original; however, it is important to note that Coppola’s version presented greater strength and unity among the movie’s female characters than the original film.
LeAnn Whites, Gender Matters: Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Making of the New South, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Victoria E. Bynum, Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control of the Old South, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber, Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Melissa Strong, “‘The Finest Kind of Lady’: Hegemonic Femininity in the American Civil War Narratives,” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 46, no. 1 (2017).
Owen Gleiberman, “Film Review: The Beguiled 2017,” Variety, May 24, 2017.
Sheila O’Malley, “The Beguiled Movie Review,” Roger Ebert, June 23, 2017.
A.O. Scott, “Review: ‘The Beguiled,’ Sofia Coppola’s Civil War Cocoon,” The New York Times, June 22, 2017.
Peter Bradshaw, “The Beguiled Review- Sofia Coppola Piles on Passion in the Deep South,” The Guardian, July 13, 2017.
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