Snapshots - #30: Megan Leavey, The Beguiled, and Lady Macbeth
Megan Leavey (♦♦♦♦): Young marine corporal Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) is assigned, as a result of a disciplinary action, the task of cleaning the corps' kennels for one week. She instantly takes a liking for the dogs, passing all her exams with flying colors to be given the opportunity of being a dog handler.
When Rex, an aggressive German shepherd, bites and breaks his handler's hand, he is reassigned to Leavey. Soon they are both training to sniff out IED explosives, while they work on bonding, and are deployed to Iraq. Over the course of 100 missions, as a team they save countless lives, but both get injured in the line of duty. Leavey is evacuated and granted leave; Rex stays behind. After many attempts to reunite and Leavey's efforts to keep him, the army retires him and she adopts him. Together they live until the end of his days.
I'm a big sucker for animal stories, even more so if they are well acted, thus it's no coincidence that I liked Megan Leavey a great deal. Add to that that it is based on a true story—both subjects war heroes who saved countless lives as a team over 100 missions in six months during the Iraq War—, with credible, edge-of-your-seat war action, a sentimental journey to adopt the dog...They had me at hello. Needless to say, I cried too.
The Beguiled (2017), (♦♦♦): Virginia, 1864. It's three years into the U.S. Civil War. In the countryside a former mansion has been repurposed as a seminary for young ladies. Only five students, a teacher, and the headmistress remain; some of them have families on the outside, but are better off at school.
Picking mushroom around the property, a young student finds a wounded Yankee corporal (Colin Farrell) and brings him to school. He is tended to and allowed to heal, while each woman vie for the soldier's attention in her own way. Little do they know that those whispered sweet nothings will alter the course of their lives in ways they could have not imagined.
Written, directed, and produced in part by Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled is a Civil War period drama that focuses on the emotional needs of women during a conflagration. The need to show a little vanity, guarded reserve and strength, for their outward beauties to be noticed and praised, and most of all, the need to band together to protect one another of the potential bestiality of the world at large.
The Beguiled is an accomplished movie that starts with inane domestic scenes punctuated by giggling, bird calls, and occasional distant cannon blasts, and soon takes a dark turn when an unexpected accident is questionably handled. From that point forward, the plot evolves into slow simmering suspense, while at the notes of atmospheric music, one wonders if what happened after the accident was done with evil intent, and if the events that ensued could have been different. The answer in those cases is no, which is what makes this little film, acted mostly by women (Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning), so haunting.
Lady Macbeth (♦♦♦): England, 1865. Young Katherine (Florence Pugh) has been sold to marriage into a stifling, rich family. Her husband pays no attention to her, while her father-in-law scolds her constantly. When both men leave her to care for the estate while they travel on business, she meets a fiery, newly arrived young groom. For him she will go to lengths she never thought possible.
It was not that Lady Macbeth was a bad movie, or that Florence Pugh didn't give a good enough performance as leading lady; I was just not impressed with this film, an adaptation of the novel of the same title, mainly because of the "Thèrése Raquin vibe" that I could not shake off. Because of that, I found it entirely predictable and couldn't help but compare it, while it was running, to 2013's In Secret, starring Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac, and Jessica Lange, a solid, if still mediocre, adaptation of Thèrése Raquin that I watched last year.
In Secret has more likable protagonists, better chemistry by the whole ensemble cast, and a more empathetic approach to the plot. The ending is also more fitting than Lady Macbeth's. You'll probably say that they are two different novels, but the plot is very similar, hence my frustration with Lady Macbeth.