Three new reviews from Blake Crane on Film Racket to open July

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THE BEGUILED

The Civil War rages in the background of Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, but the real battle quietly churns within a small group of women and girls holed up in a Virginia boarding school. Distant cannon blasts that occasionally cut through the persistent chirping of birds and crickets in the deteriorating antebellum setting are softened reminders of outlying wartime mores. The writer/director’s concerns are more primal than political – except for the gender kind, and the devilishly simple clash of inhibitions and desires crackles with delicate emotion and atmosphere.

THE LITTLE HOURS

The Little Hours sources a story from “The Decameron” and puts it through a Monty Python/Mel Brooks filter, using modern (and very foul) language to expose the goings-on at a 14th century Italian convent. While not as punchline-heavy as its most apparent comedic influences, writer/director Jeff Baena’s film works as a layered farce that doesn’t dig too deeply. Any statements about the church as an institution, religion, or repression are presented as plainly as the F-bombs flowing from the mouths of the convent’s vulgar nuns.

BABY DRIVER

Edgar Wright has always used carefully calculated technique to create a sense of effortless whimsy in his films. Whether utilizing crash zooms, persistent soundtrack cues, or cultivated genre tropes to play with, the writer/director has an immediately identifiable style with an exuberant cadence. The auteur’s latest, Baby Driver, is a toe-tapping, pedal-to-the-medal blast that melds his cheerful energy with nods to much more somber heist classics like The Driver and Heat. It’s Wright’s least overtly comedic film, especially in a violent, rambling final act, but the buoyancy remains undeniable.

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