I never saw the 1971 Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman movie this was based on. And I’m not sure just why Sophia Coppola wanted to remake it. It’s a good enough story, but did it need to be made twice? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll look up the original.
It’s got a terrific cast. Nicole Kidman is the headmistress of a school for young ladies in the closing year of the Civil War. Things are going badly for the South, and there are only a few girls residing there. Kirsten Dunst is the only teacher left. The oldest pupil is Elle Fanning. One of the other girls comes upon a badly wounded Union soldier, Colin Farrell, while picking mushrooms. She takes him back to the old mansion. Instead of turning him over to the troops who occasionally march by, where he will surely die on the road before he ever gets to Andersonville to die there of exposure or dysentery or starvation, they decide to nurse him back to health first.
He is a canny young man, and soon has the girls competing for his attention. But he goes a little too far and tumbles down the stairs, hurting himself so badly that they have to cut off his leg. He takes this badly (well, wouldn’t you?), and gets very violent and terrifying. He takes possession of their only pistol. So, what to do, what to do? Why not go pick some more mushrooms, but not the same kind …
It’s quite well done, though rather dark. Sure, it would have been dark in that old house even during the daytime, but I found it a little too dark even on a sunny day. That’s a minor carp. The writing and acting are all great, and I enjoyed myself. But it won’t go on my list of classics.