Watched this eleven days ago, but have not had the time to write a review.
First of all, I’m a sucker for old-fashioned epics based on nineteenth-century novels. I also think Carey Mulligan is one of the best actors out there. So Thomas Vinterberg’s Far from the Madding Crowd, based on Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel, and featuring Mulligan in almost every scene, was almost certain to entertain me. And it did.
Mulligan plays Bathsheba Everdene, a beautiful headstrong woman who inherits a farm in England and has three very different kinds of men wishing to marry her: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer; William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), Bathsheba’s wealthy and lonely neighbour; and Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a young, charming and handsome (though rather shallow) soldier. Whom, if any, is Bathsheba going to choose, and what will be the consequences of her choice?
The romances in Far from the Madding Crowd don’t always feel credible and Bathsheba is consistently infuriating (as I suppose she should be), but the performances are all excellent and the film is worth watching just to see Mulligan and Sheen perform together. The cinematography in such a film needs to be a highlight, and it was. The score is more than adequate. So I found this film to be a solid, if sometimes uninspiring, piece of entertainment.
I’m a fan of John Schlesinger’s 1967 filming of Hardy’s novel. It starred Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, Alan Bates and Peter Finch, had a marvellous score, and was a staple of classy late-night TV viewing when I was in my late teens and early twenties. It would have been hard for Vinterberg’s film to match that one in my eyes, and it didn’t, but the style and performances are different enough that I still found the new version very enjoyable. I also suspect that that the new film more accurately reflects the life in England in the 19th century (and Mulligan stands up well against Christie). So I am going to let Far from the Madding Crowd slide just over the line to ***+. My mug is up.