Wednesday, 24 June 2015
FILM REVIEW: FAR ROM THE MADDING CROWD
20th Century Fox Films
Thomas Hardy's Bathsheba Everdene may lend her name to The Hunger Games heroine but the only arrows being fired in this beautiful looking adaptation (penned by David Nicholls; directed by Thomas Vinterberg) of the author's Far From The Madding Crowd are by cupid. Not once, not twice but thrice.
Such is the allure of Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan, radiant as ever), the farm girl cum heiress, that she draws the attentions of three suitors. The first is Gabriel Oak (a warm Matthias Schoenaerts), a shepherd who proposes to Bathsheba (within the film's first few minutes) before the pair have had a reversal of fortunes; Bathsheba receiving her uncle's inheritance and Gabriel losing his flock and livelihood to an overzealous sheepdog.
Bathsheba politely rejects Gabriel's proposal ("I would want a husband to tame me and you wouldn't be able to do it."), as she does William Boldwood (a vulnerable Michael Sheen), the wealthy neighbour of her uncle's estate who becomes smitten with her following a Valentine's Day prank.
Although the marriage would be advantageous land-wise, Bathsheba is an independent woman; the kind who doesn't ride side-saddle and who is happy to muck-in with the workers when needed. But Bathsheba's also human and prone to romantic fervor, so when the handsome but caddish Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) arrives she throws caution to the wind, marrying in haste and repenting at his drunken leisure.
And while a loveless marriage is some kind of tragedy, that's about as tragic (unusual for Hardy) as it gets in Far From The Madding Crowd. A subplot involving Troy's pregnant lover (an under-utilized Juno Temple), missing her trip down the aisle due to a church mix-up (and thus the reason for his drunken cruelty0, isn't given enough screen time to render it in any way affecting.
Indeed, there's very little in the film in which to get emotionally invested. For all the beautiful trappings -- the sun-dappled cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen; costumes by Janet Patterson -- and fine performances (Mulligan and her trifecta of leading men are all solid), the episodic nature of the story and the almost inevitable ending (even those who haven't read Hardy's novel will guess at and/or be pleased by the denouement) combine to make Far From The Madding Crowd a satisfactory but far from satisfying viewing experience.