Period Eloquence and Modern Speak Make “Madding Crowd” A Winner

By Scott Kurland

Film: Far From The Madding Crowd
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Mathias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple, and Michael Sheen
Rated: PG-13
Director: Thomas Vinterberg

   As I grow older, I start to realize certain films and genres I used to hate are now becoming some of my personal treats. I once found documentaries boring. Now I have a large collection of Ken Burns films and other non-fiction  documented films. For the longest time I wouldn’t step foot in a foreign film, and these days they’re all I want to see. What surprises me the most is one of my favorite genres is slowly becoming “the period piece”. This all started when I realized my favorite film “The Sting” is in fact a period film. Then I watched the BBC’s “Pride and Prejudice” in high school, I was hooked. Maybe it was the story, or possibly the performance of Colin Firth (the man Tina Fey said she’d be with “For A Polite Amount of Time”.) Whatever be the case, I find myself  on the petticoats and powdered wigs band wagon. This week’s film is in fact a period piece called, “Far From The Madding Crowd”. Lets see if it’s any good shall we?

   Carey Mulligan stars as Bathsheba Everdene, a very dominant woman for her time period. Bathsheba is outspoken, rebellious, and very charismatic. It seems only fitting that the men of London become attracted to he. It starts to become confusing for Bathsheba when a trio of suitors as to marry her. Bathsheba believes that marriage is a prison sentence and she doesn’t want to have some man try and tame her. This is unfortunate because she has two very wonderful men (Mathias Schornaerts and Michael Sheen) in love with her. Somehow, Bathsheba does find romance in the form of the third suitor, the sinister Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge). Has Bathsheba made a mistake? Will she ever be happy?

   It seems like no matter what the role is, Carey Mulligan will always shine in it. What I loved about her as Bathsheba is how she was playing the same role, but the person seems to change drastically in a short time span. Mulligan is one of those actresses who knows how to make you love her and break your heart while she does it. 

   As Bathsheba, Mulligan has the difficult job of conveying a very memorable character in a sea of dominant males. The entire film lies on a pin head that Mulligan must balance. She needs to be the main focus for these men because Bathsheba is such an unique snowflake. If any other actress played this role, for example Scarlett Johansson or Natalie Portman, it would be Johansson and Portman on the screen not the character. Mulligan encompasses this role, she gets lost in the role of Bathsheba, and that is what makes this film work.

   Schoenaerts, Sturridge, and Sheen are fantastic as Bathsheba’s three bowls of porridge...I mean gentlemen callers. I kid you not, they treat each suitor as if Bathsheba is Goldilocks, and each man is a bowl of Porridge. Sturridge is too hot, he has a temper, he’s mean, but he’s also exciting and dangerous. Sheen is too cold, he’s distant and at times uninviting because he’s an unmarried middle aged man. He’s a good person, but not a suitable lover for Bathsheba. Finally, Schoenaerts is just right as Mr. Oak, understanding, loving, and a true friend. I must confess that Sturridge’s character was the first time I truly hated a character on film. Normally, I hate the performance of the actor, but Sturridge is so good I knew he brought this character to life. Sturridge made Troy so unforgiven and self entitled that it is truly incredible to watch him. 

   The greatest performance is Michael Sheen as Mr. Boldwood. Sheen is one of the most versatile actors working today. The way Sheen is able to take a role full force and live through his characters is so astonishing. Boldwood is his most endearing role to date. In the past adaptations Mr. Boldwood is rather cold and off putting,  but Sheen brings vulnerability and loneliness to this man. I truly believe if you want your film to be better than it is add Michael Sheen.

   “Far From The Madding Crowd” is directed by Thomas Vinterberg, who made the critically acclaimed “The Hunt”. Vinterberg has this ability to lure his audience in with a false sense of security, only to unload dark subject matters. Vinterberg is probably the only director who can continue to a series of films with on going plot twists flawlessly.

  “Far From The Madding Crowd”, is one of the most surprising treats of the summer movie season. It’s not a big action film, nor is it a slapstick comedy. What it is, is something so special and full of potential it might be a big contender this award season. The plot is at times confusing, and it is a bit long towards the middle. However, the love stories are very enticing and Sheen’s climax is a jaw dropping curveball. “Far From The Madding Crowd”, is the best period piece I’ve seen since “Atonement”. This is a must see film.

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