Marking a distinct change of pace for both director Don Siegel and star Clint Eastwood, The Beguiled doesn’t come off, and cues laughter in all the wrong places.
Eastwood eschews his usual action character to portray a wounded Union soldier recuperating within the confines of a small school for southern girls run by Geraldine Page. His presence cues a series of diverse sexual frustrations, and his wily handling of the ladies, spark jealousies of meller proportions.
Pic is essentially black comedy, but treatment is consistently heavy-handed. Script [from novel by Thomas Cullinan] resorts to tired symbolism, including that chestnut that equates southern womanhood with incestuous dreams under the Spanish moss.
Eastwood is not called upon to do much emoting; that is left in spades to the ladies. Page, per usual, runs away with the honors, whether girlishly remembering her erotic relationship with her brother or grimly sawing off Eastwood’s leg in a sequence that would be nauseating if it weren’t so funny.