Movie Review: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)
“Far from the Madding Crowd” is considered a proto-feminist tale since it concerns a headstrong young woman in 19th-century Britain who ruins the lives of three men.
Look, I love me some Carey Mulligan, but her character, Bathsheba Everdene (yes, the inspiration for Katniss), is a bit of a pain. She turns down a kind, prosperous sheep farmer, Gabriel Oak (Mathhias Schoenaerts of “Rust and Bone” and “The Drop”), because she likes her in-de-pendence. Then they switch fortunes: she inherits her uncle’s estate while his dog, Young George, also headstrong, drives his sheep off a cliff and him into poverty. So he winds up working for her. He still has feelings for her, and she for him (maybe), but ... Please, we’re British.
The even more British William Boldwood (Michael Sheen)—whose name surely was chosen with an ironic laugh by Thomas Hardy—becomes enamored of Bathsheba as well, but only acts when, as a joke, she sends him a valentine embossed with the words “Marry me.” He thinks she means it and offers his hand. She doesn’t and turns him down. But he stays on the fringes, acting apologetically British and proposing now and again just for the humiliation of it.
Which leaves the third man, who finally gets some. Sgt. Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) sees Bathsheba late at night, tells her she’s beautiful, then sets up a rendezvous where, before she can speak, he grabs her and kisses her. That does it—she’s his. So much for in-de-pendence. It’s classic bad boy stuff. He’s a dolt and a gambler, but they marry. During the wedding celebration, storms approach, Mr. Oak warns that precautions must be taken, but Troy drunkenly and truculently dismisses him. Oak still goes to the rescue and saves the farm. For her. Then she sleeps with Troy.
Guess which man she winds up with?
There’s a lot of 19th-century melodrama here and Troy gets the worst of it. Earlier, we see him in the church, resplendent in uniform, about to marry the woman he loves, Fanny Robbin (Juno Temple), who is walking to the church with flowers in hand. Except it’s the wrong church. And that's that. He finds out the true story, and the fact that she’s pregnant with his child, later a county fair, where she’s begging for alms. Again, he agrees to meet up with her later, and again there's disaster. She dies, and her child with her. Heartbroken, he performs that classic scene out of of British melodrama—parodied in “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin”—by swimming out to sea to kill himself.
Which leaves Bathsheba free to marry ... Boldwood. Really? Yes, really.
So first she goes for the bad boy. Then she goes for the money. “Feminist.”
But at a party at Boldwood’s estate, guess who shows up? Troy. I’m not dead yet. He’s back, bitter and petulant, and demands Bathsheba’s money and person. Boldwood denies him both and shoots him. Dead. And there goes Boldwood, too, taken into custody.
Which leaves Mr. Oak, the man she should’ve been with at the beginning. But first she had to ruin the lives of two other men.
“Madding” is well-acted, beautifully art directed (by Julia Castle), capably directed (by Thomas Vingterberg, “The Hunt”), but the story is this.
Patricia loved it. Should I be worried?