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FAR FROM THE MADDENING CROWD (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
Written by David Nicholls
Based on Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts,
Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple

I really thought this film was going to be good.

The trailer made it seem beautiful, heart-wrenching, interesting.

No. No no. It’s a nineteenth century soap opera that moves slower than molasses dripping from a non-greased measuring cup.

Cary Mulligan plays young, independent Bathsheba Everdeen.

I know. I kept muttering, “Katniss!” each time they said her last name. Bathsheba is inexplicably irresistible to all sorts of men – a kind, shy, handsome farmer, a semi-creepy, disheveled middle-aged man, and a douche-y, manipulative soldier.

One two three.

Here we go on an empty journey of irrational infatuations and unwarranted marriage proposals. Literally – each guy proposes to Ms. Everdeen within half an hour of meeting her.

And why?

Bathsheba is supposed to be a strong, independent woman. She inherits and helps run her own farm, she sells her own grain, she gets down and dirty bathing sheep. She is most definitely a capable lady—a rare and perhaps frowned upon characteristic of women in the 1800’s. But the character is rude and arrogant instead of inspiring. She’s especially indecent to the one good man in the film, the farmer, Mr. Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts).

So, why does he like her?

She lounges on his truck for half a minute, admires his dog and then he proposes. And Bathsheba actually laughs. Very off-putting. Their “relationship continues” when she offers him a position at her farm once his young dog leads his entire flock of sheep off a cliff. Yeah.

Necessary scene? Watching tons of sheep crash bloodily into sharp rocks on a beach? I think not.
 
Let’s look at the second suitor, Mr. William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), an awkward, older man, who falls for Bathsheba upon receiving a valentine, which she intended to be a joke. So she’s rather cruel to him and yet he still desperately, like really desperately, wants to marry her. Poor guy.

Enter suitor number three, the seductive asshole soldier, Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge). He wins over Bathsheba by showing off his expert swordsmanship (innuendo much?) and grabbing her crotch. Oh how to swoon a woman! 

The film then becomes an entangled mess of who likes who, who befriends who, who’s betraying who. It’s predictable and boring.

Madding Crowd didn’t need to be two hours long. The film trudges along with painfully drawn out eye-gazing and long walks through the woods. Just speak already! Walk faster! And why are these men gazing so fondly at and walking in wake of Bathsheba? She’s a jerk calling herself “independent”. She’s just immature and indecisive. And I hate saying that because Cary Mulligan is an exquisite actress. And I wouldn’t say the overall acting is bad. I’d say the story is ridiculous and becomes more and more like a day-time-mommy-show that might replace All My Children.

Seriously. Characters disappear, come back to life, pathetically cry, die, murder, kiss, etc.

I do want to give credit to the sets, wardrobes and environment. The outfits are impeccable and attractive. The scenery is gorgeous and the camera swarms through beautiful woods, farmlands and valleys. The lighting is always soft and brings a nostalgic quality to the film. The soundtrack is also lovely and makes an empty story featuring depthless characters feel epic and sentimental.

Too bad though. The story spoils the atmosphere.

Far From The Madding Crowd should have remained a trailer. It was so appealing contained within two and a half minutes.

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