Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Far from the Madding Crowd' Is Fresh and Far from Hardy Lite

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Far from the Madding Crowd' Is Fresh and Far from Hardy Lite

Article excerpt

The heroine's name in "Far From the Madding Crowd," adapted from Thomas Hardy's 1874 novel, is Bathsheba Everdene, and she is as formidable as that sounds. (That "Everdene," by the way, was appropriated by Suzanne Collins for Katniss's surname - different spelling - in "The Hunger Games" books, a somewhat lesser novelistic achievement.)

Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba, a Victorian country girl who inherits her uncle's farm and becomes fiercely determined to make a success of it. She cuts a striking figure in her tight brown leather jackets and soon attracts the attention of a trio of disparate suitors.

First there is the farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), appropriately named, who is a rooted, loamy type. His marriage proposal to her is rejected. (His relative low-born status doesn't help.) "I'd want someone to tame me," she tells him, although he seems eminently qualified. He ends up sticking around anyway to oversee the estate.

Next up is William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), Bathsheba's wealthy, older next-door neighbor, who is more wooden than bold. He also impulsively proposes to her, and is politely but peremptorily rejected.

That leaves Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge), a dapper soldier who parades about in his bright red coat. His idea of foreplay, when Bathsheba quiveringly agrees to meet him in a dark forest, is to slice off a lock of her hair with his sword.

Regrettably, Troy is the one she marries, with predictable consequences. (Predictable, that is, to everyone but Bathsheba.) We are supposed to think that Troy is still pining over a lost love, but that's not really what we see. He's caddish when the chips are down.

Unlike most of Hardy's novels, "Far From the Madding Crowd," despite the requisite doominess, is more uplifting than most, and perhaps this is what attracted the director, Thomas Vinterberg. He is quoted in the film's press notes as saying: "I think we need this kind of story right now because we live in very cynical times and we need a story that is about something else. …

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