Thursday, May 21, 2015

Movie Review #260: "Far from the Madding Crowd" (2015)

Movie"Far from the Madding Crowd"
Ticket Price: $7.00
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
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A young independent English woman named Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) inherits her uncle's land and farm. Proving she can make in a man's world and in a position of financial security, she is able to make her own decisions when it comes to her relationships. In her recent life, she has had three suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep herder who came to work for Miss Everdene after losing his farm in a tragic accident, William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), her wealthy neighbor who owns 1,000 acres of his own, and Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Surridge), a military man and a romantic who has had his own tragedies in love. Bathsheba is determined to make her own choices on the matter, right or wrong, and deal with whatever consequences come with it. 

Who run the world? GIRLS.

In many ways, Bathsheba is a strong female character, especially in the era when this movie/book is supposed to take place. She is financially independent, free spirited and is extremely bullheaded. She is confident and is willing to show off her talents at any time. She also mentions several times that she knows the world in which she resides is one chiefly made for men to express their feelings and live comfortably without a care, but is willing to accept challenges thrown by such men in front of her whenever she gets the chance. Sometimes, though, we wish such a seemingly strong woman was given a more important choice in a movie besides 'what man shall I choose as my husband?' At first, Bathsheba beings the story promising to never marry because she doesn't want a husband, saying she will never find someone who can "tame her" wild spirits. Eventually, as the story and time go on, she changes her tune as if to spite others, showing she will do what she wants, when she wants, without anyone's approval. That being said, this is a choice many woman do make and the fact she has a choice at all in a time where marriages were often treated more like business deals than relationships does say something for her character's will.

Because of her free spirit, she has attracted the eye of many different men who long to be with such a unique woman. Each of her three suitors offers a different central quality. Gabriel, played extremely well by Matthias Schoenaerts, is loyal and often puts the needs of others above his own. It is clear that he has always been in love with Bathsheba, but hides his feelings and offers an objective opinion, until he can no longer say it is so. Gabriel and Bathsheba don't just have a mutual love for one another, they have a mutual respect for one another. It is painfully obvious that they are meant to be together, but in an effort to make her own choices, Bathsheba unfortunately makes a series of poor choices in an effort to prove she can make her own. Her second suitor is William, played sheepishly and amazingly by Michael Sheen. He is a rich man, owning the farm next to hers, and can offer Bathsheba constant security, and choosing him would also mean doubling their lands and having absolutely no money worries for the rest of their lives. William has been scorned in the past and is subject to rampant rumors about town. He is meek, timid, and never forceful, but this does not make him an idiot. He knows how the world works and knows he is a middle-aged man with no romantic prospects. But, in his almost pathetic attempts at forming more of a partnership than a romantic relationship With Bathsheba, he lays a world of guilt and responsibility on her, for picking him as a husband would mean lifting him up emotionally, as well as herself. Though Sheen is not on screen all that long, the audience is able to get the sense that, while their friendship/relationship has been brief, he truly does care for Bathsheba and is willing to do anything for her, even if it means living a life of solitude and sadness in exchange for her happiness. Finally, there is Francis, played by Tom Sturridge, who offers Bathsheba romance where there previously was none. She has never even been kissed by the time she meets suitor #3, and Francis, a sergeant in the army, cloaked in a red uniform and wielding a sword, has an air of fun and excitement about him, but little else. It is clear he is the worst possible choice for her, but, even in Victoria era England, women loved bad boys, apparently. Francis also comes with a lot of baggage due to his past failed romance. He has little farming skills, since he was a soldier, and spends his days chasing geese as opposed to working hard in the fields, as Bathsheba has become accustomed. Bathsheba quickly learns when we have the freedom to make choices, we often wind up making the wrong ones and have to live with them and learn from those mistakes. Her less than wise decision leads her to a world of heartache and the loss of her independence, and it makes everyone else miserable in the process.

As with most period piece movies, "Far from the Madding Crowd" is extremely beautiful because of the country where it was filmed. Long, lingering camera shots of hills and dales and cliffs and shores make us yearn for a vacation to such a charming place. Unlike other period piece films as of late, though, this movie is actually good, not just a pretty thing to look at with no substance. It's genuinely a good movie, and not just because of the empowerment issue behind it, either. Carey Mulligan is the driving force behind its success and greatness as she breathes such an incredible life into the character of Bathsheba, who is basically my spirit animal. Mulligan plays her so extremely well and shows what kind of an actress she really is. She is able to play the serious, stoic Bathsheba, but can easily transfer into the free, cool Bathsheba at the drop of a hat. When she is alongside one of the other supporting actors in this film, their interactions all bring something completely different but necessary to the table. The story is good, the directing is crisp, and apparently this is a faithful adaptation to the book, which I am going to be reading as soon as possible. We were quite surprised with how much we enjoyed this movie, so don't be thrown off and think it's "just another old-timey movie," because it really is so much more.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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