Who would’ve thought a Sofia-Coppola-directed film about Confederate women taking in a Union soldier in the dying days of the American Civil War would be so gosh-darned fun? No doubt it’s a gloomy setting – gnarled trees and unkempt gardens with the distant boom of artillery fire – that turns appropriately nasty in its final act, but the film primarily succeeds as an arch comedy that savagely satirises its self-obsessed ladies of leisure.
The film’s caught some flak for its omission of any substantial black characters or acknowledgement of slavery. It’s there on the margins, but this is primary a story about the hypocrisy of civilisation. I’ve heard people compare it to Picnic at Hanging Rock, but where Weir render white colonists as aliens in unwelcome environs, Coppola twists the dark grip of nature around her naïve characters. The line between polite ‘Southern hospitality’ and savagery is thin indeed.
If that’s not enough, there’s the cast: Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning ably supported by the likes of Oona Laurence and Angourie Rice. And Colin Farrell, who sets the fireworks in motion as the cat in the henhouse, so to speak. A lesser Coppola, perhaps, but her most purely entertaining film.