Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

12 August 2017

The Beguiled and Baby Driver

I was into Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled. It's a mood piece, like all of Coppola's films, and, well, it is about the same mood as all of Coppola's films. Still, it's a fun, mostly sexy piece, and I was into it. I found it troubling and interesting. 

But I find that Coppola's movies make assumptions about audience identification or comprehension that aren't always quite there yet and so The Beguiled makes unjustified moves, assuming we are following, and we eventually end up playing catch up.

The other sort of odd thing about The Beguiled is that it isn't really sure whose side it's on. This is strange. Are we supposed to identify with this soldier against the women (the film seems to think so during a long sequence in the third act in which he is allowed to articulate his grievances), or are supposed to be on their side, to take pleasure in their actions? This just isn't clear, and if Coppola knows what side she wants us to be on, she hasn't made a film that helps us do that. Again, I think Coppola's filmmaking makes assumptions about audience identification that haven't actually been achieved.

This didn't bother me too much, though. I just love me some Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst. And this film uses all of them very well. (I continue to be baffled by the popularity of Elle Fanning, I must say, but to each her own.)

The best thing about The Beguiled is the costumes. They're absolutely genius. I really hope that  Stacey Battat gets her first Oscar nomination for this.


* * *
Edgar Wright's Baby Driver is better than what I am about to say, but once it occurred to me that Baby Driver is La La Land for people who hated La La Land, I couldn't forget the association. To be sure, Baby Driver has guns and explosions and the best car chases I've ever seen in my life, but it is just a little more gimmicky than I could handle.

This is a fun twenty-first-century musical, and it is definitely Wright's most accomplished, finely directed film to date. But... well so much of it just seemed so overly phony. This is not helped by Kevin Spacey's absurdly over-the-top performance and the film's ridiculous romantic plot, which even has an entire La La Land fantasy sequence near its end.

Do not mistake me, though. This is a good movie. And I enjoyed it a lot. That the film does not have enough Jon Bernthal in it is, I think, indicative of why I didn't completely love this picture. Baby Driver is more interested in sentiment and fantasy than it is in crime, violence, or really scaring its audience. Instead, everything in the film takes place in a kind of Disneyland version of criminal activity, in which it is inevitable that love will save the day.