In a 34 year career that has included three Golden Globes and an Oscar with four nominations, Nicole Kidman has established herself as one of the most versatile and iconic actors in modern Hollywood. Now she’s adding another chapter to that career this weekend with Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled one of the biggest hits from this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
In The Beguiled, a remake of Don Siegel’s 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood, Kidman plays Martha Farnsworth, the headmistress of an all-girl boarding school in the Deep South during the American Civil War. One day, the school gets an unexpected guest in the form of a wounded Union soldier named John McBurney (Colin Farrell), who falls in love with one of the teachers, Edwina, (Kirsten Dunst), as he is nursed back to health. But soon, John’s presence creates tension amongst the women, as both they and John bring out their darker natures.
Kidman’s performance in The Beguiled is a gripping one, as Martha Farnsworth jumps between motherly presence and wicked conspirator, sometimes doing both at the same time. While Siegel’s original film was a pulpy early 70s thriller, Coppola’s remake and Kidman’s approach opt for tense, slow-boiling melodrama, throwing a war-scarred, mentally shaken soldier into a house of women isolated and repressed by the war and slowly raising the temperature.
For more of Kidman’s work, check out a trio of performances from the turn of the century. First, watch Moulin Rouge! a campy jukebox musical that earned Kidman her first Oscar nomination as Satine, the Moulin Rouge’s biggest star. Follow that up with something completely different: The Others, a psychological horror film from Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar that features Kidman as a widowed mother during WWII who tries to protect her children from paranormal occurrences in their home. Finally, go see The Hours, a drama that won Kidman an Oscar for her performance as the famed author Virginia Woolf as she writes her classic novel “Mrs. Dalloway.”