Monday, July 3, 2017

Sofia's Epic Fail

4 out of these 7 women have speaking roles. 
Was that harsh? Well, watching her new film The Beguiled felt like a one and a half torture ride to nowhere's-ville. I want my time back, and my money. And I want her to make better films, but that's not going to happen is it? 
The film was marketed as a radical feminist revenge story, perfect for the chauvinist rhetoric of the Trump era, but Valerie Solanas it is not. It's not even a 'hell hath no fury…' kind of thing. As I said, it's about an hour and a half of nothing. Which is a fair assessment of basically all of her films, yeah I said it. It had such great potential. It's a Misery meets Gone with the Wind story based on a Clint Eastwood movie from the 70's (arguably the best era of America filmmaking). With a stellar cast like Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell, and the up-and-coming Elle Fanning, you were thinking how could this go wrong? In all respects apparently.

Admit it, this part from the trailer is why we all wanted to see it. 'Get me the anatomy book'.
I have to give it up to the marketing department. They did a great job with the theater art, the promo art, the trailers, etc. Basically building up this turd in a dress so that people would shelve out 11 dollars to see it. I saw it with a friend earlier today and we witnessed quite a few walk outs. At first we thought it was because we were basically screaming at the screen, but we couldn't help ourselves. Eventually, we realized that the walk outs had the right idea. 
So stop fucking with us, Coppola. Just because you're Hollywood royalty doesn't mean you can do no wrong. In fact you can do so much wrong to some seriously ripe and brilliant material that it kind of taints your family's legacy.
The film is photographed beautifully; with low-lit interiors, candlelight and sunshine, and dressing that looks like it's actually a house that has been lived in and not a matte painting that was put up the day before. Costumes are en pointe and that's about the only positive things I have to say about the film. I know it was just released, so unlike most of my reviews I'm not giving away the plot. Here's what we know. Colin Farrell is a Union deserter; a Irish mercenary who has been badly injured and is found on the outskirts of a large Southern plantation in Virginia. He is taken in by the children and their headmistress who have had to lay low three years into the Civil War. It's pretty obvious that 6 girls in their sexual prime or in puberty and a woman a bit past her prime but still hot AF (Nicole Kidman) would create sexual tension with the one man they're keeping in the house so palpable you could cut it with a bread knife.
I will give her the director of photography a lot of credit. He managed to make a dull film very pretty. So you have that to look forward to. 
Firstly, this house she runs with 6 pupils seems to have an endless supply of food and wine. What the actual fuck? Every movie about the Civil War, or any war for that matter is about people having no food or rations. Also, three of the girls don't even have speaking parts. That's a waste of space, they literally do nothing. You could just cut them out of the film and save the budget. For an hour and a half run time, I would say there's about 20 minutes of dialogue which is par for the course for a Sofia Copolla film. Every single time there is a moment for potential pathos, drama, and hubris, she builds that moment and then kills it. It's like getting really close to orgasm, and then the person falls asleep on you.
Although it appears deliciously sexually devious, the actually sexuality of this film has about as much erotica as a 13 year old's vampire fan fiction.  
It's almost as if Sofia is afraid of the sexuality of this film, which is basically the driving force of the plot. Even scenes that should be highly erotic are creepy and weird. Scarlet O'Hara crying on Ashley's chest was more erotic than anything in this movie. For a mostly silent film with no plot and no nuance of the main characters it seems to kind of move into the category of Avant-Garde, which I believe is actually Sofia's calling. But go Avant-Garde all the way. Film on 16mm silent Bolex cameras, with a 10 minute run time, and save us the grief. She so desperately wants to be considered a serious artist, but she comes off as uber-pretentious. She breaks so many film rules that it's just not right. 
I know breaking film rules can be fine, but what we think of as breaking is actually bending. Tarantino does it, Scorsese does it. But rules are there for a reason. Example: Your main characters have to be nuanced. They have to be three dimensional. They have to have motive good or bad. There has to be a plot that moves forward and doesn't just meander around waiting for shit to happen. I don't care how pretty it looks. 
People think that she's so unique because she plays up the subtlety which is actually giving her audience a giant middle finger. There's being subtle, which is fine, and then there's saying nothing at all, and that's what this film does. I don't need resolution, I can leave a film without closure as long as the film presents interesting questions to consider later. This film does not. You leave the theater thinking…'well, that happened'. Sofia is should really stop writing her own films because she writes about 30 pages and stretches it to an hour and a half run time (I keep mentioning that because it felt way longer). It's kind of sad that coming from such a talented family, we'll think of The Bling Ring as 'the good one'. Hard pass.

Trailer below...I mean...whatever.

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