Far From the Madding Crowd ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp
This is the second film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel. The first was in 1967 and starred that mod girl Julie Christie. This one is better, though. It has Carey Mulligan (who played Michael Fassbender’s disturbed sister in Shame and Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby) as Bathsheba Everdene. The story is set in rural England in 1870. Bathsheba is that rare animal in Victorian England, a free-thinking woman who doesn’t believe that a woman has to be dependent on a man to get along in the world. She has, as she says, an education and nothing else. When handsome sheep farmer Gabriel Oaks (Matthias Schoenaerts) proposes marriage to her on very short acquaintance, she tells him she doesn’t want a husband. That isn’t the end of him, though. Just about the time he loses his own small farm through a cruel twist of fate, she inherits a farm of her own from an uncle. Since she knows nothing about running a farm, she employs Gabriel Oaks to help her.
Meanwhile, Bathsheba has caught the eye of wealthy landowner William Boldwood (Michael Sheen). He has a large, impressive house and anything a girl could want in the way of earthly possessions, but he’s dour, middle-aged and unexciting. When he proposes marriage to Bathsheba (as, with Farmer Oaks, on very short acquaintance), she turns him down, explaining that she doesn’t want to be any man’s property. Farmer Boldwood doesn’t give up easily, though; he believes he might be able to get her to change her mind.
A third man comes onto the scene and almost literally sweeps Bathsheba off her feet. He is handsome Sergeant Francis “Frank” Troy. With his red uniform, pale skin, perfect physique and black mustache, he is too much for Bathsheba to resist. She enters into a hasty, ill-informed union with him, only to regret it almost the same day as the marriage. It turns out that he was supposed to marry another girl named Fanny Robbin (played by Juno Temple, who plays Texas-accented Dottie in Killer Joe), but when Fanny goes to the wrong church on the day of the wedding, she literally leaves him standing at the altar. When Frank meets Fanny again after he is married to Bathsheba, she is destitute and carrying his child. She and the child both die and Frank is grief-stricken. He tells Bathsheba that Fanny meant more to him that she (Bathsheba) ever could. He commits suicide (or seems to) by removing his uniform and swimming far out into the ocean. There’s a heavy dose of irony in how the story is resolved.
With this cast of characters and the setting, how could you go wrong? If you are of a literary bent and especially if you have read the books of Thomas Hardy, you will love this satisfying, beautifully photographed, perfectly cast version of Far From the Madding Crowd. Unless, of course, you prefer Fast and Furious 7, which is, I imagine, a lot like Fast and Furious 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Where will it all end?
Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp