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Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)


 
When a costume drama that was made in the 90s or before gets a makeover thanks to a new adaptation, I tend to sit up and take notice. That was the case with this Thomas Hardy classic. It had previously enjoyed two better-known adaptations (60s and later, the 90s), both of which I have seen, neither of which I was 100% thrilled with. With a leading British and Hollywood star cast in this remake and a trio of newcomers in the supporting cast, this promised to be a gem. Below I attempt to sort out some of my thoughts on what turned out to be a beautiful piece of cinema.  

Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) has never liked her name. Yet it is the name her parent’s gave her. A young woman who has no prospects, her parent’s long gone Bathsheba resides with an elderly aunt helping in the running of her farm. The neighboring famer, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) takes a liking to the independent and quirky Miss Everdene, and with his farm slowly starting to prosper, he bumbles through a marriage proposal and his prospects to the woman he loves. Following this, changes visit everyone involved. Bathsheba inherits her uncle’s farm and comes into a small fortune, reversing the roles of her and Gabriel. Simultaneously, he loses everything when his entire sheep herd is wiped out.  

As life for Bathsheba begins to flourish and she relishes her new role as mistress of her own living and destiny, Gabriel walks into her life again. Only this time, it’s as a man in need of employment. Also entering her life is her neighbor, Mr. Boldwood (Michael Sheen), an older man immediately transfixed by his beautiful neighbor. But it’s the brash soldier Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) who captures Bathsheba’s fancy. But it’s this newly formed attachment that may lead her down a path of destruction.  

 
From my experience with Hardy (limited to cinematic), he seems to prefer walking his characters down the tragic over giving them a wittier journey as Jane Austen or Elizabeth Gaskell were known for. Instead he joins fellow male author Charles Dickens with an eye to the tragic. I’ve seen two other films adapted from Hardy works, and as a story, this is (by far) my most favorite. I really like the characters and complexities of their personalities and journey. Given how well scripter’s manage to flesh out the characters and their respective quirks, I’d imagine the novel is even more complementary to their identities.  

 
Since I’ve brought them up, let’s begin with the characters. Putting a female protagonist such as Bathsheba in the leading role might be tough for viewers to warm to. She’s not only a fiery independent spirit (which is all well and good) she might also come across as a kind of spiteful, wishy-washy creature. By example, she toys with the hearts of the men who wish to capture her heart. Fortunately, Carey Mulligan softens the character. She makes her easy to like if not always understand, and imbibes plenty of sass and spunk into Bathsheba. The 90s adaptation featured a much less likable female lead in my opinion. I feel like, while still a bit of a tease, she’s less about herself, and more about caring for others and the ramifications of her actions. The men are similarly complex. Of the three, I adore Gabriel; have sympathy for Boldwood and, I don’t think it’s too harsh a word to use in saying, I detest Troy. Seriously, here is a character that’s nothing if not… weird, for lack of a better term. As beautiful as the scenery may be, the “woods” scene between he and Bathsheba is abnormal.  

If the characters fail you anywhere along the way, the cinematography won’t. This is one of the most beautiful period dramas I’ve seen lately. Every shot and emotion is captured (particularly the scenes of longing between one pairing) to elegant perfection. The costuming is also stunning! The woman behind them was also the costume designer for 2003’s live-action Peter Pan and the Nicole Kidman period drama, Portrait of a Lady. Looking at the “bigger” picture, this film is nothing if not gorgeous. There are lessons to be learned and taken to heart. Some are harsh and unpleasant to experience, but important nonetheless. Writer, David Nicholls (One Day, 2012’s Great Expectations) brings everything together very neatly. I loved the ending, ambiguous though it could have been, it feels especially complete and manages to infuse the moment with some playful flirting (likely I was grinning big by this time) that doubles as genuine feelings, and realizing a longing one character never confessed.  
 
 
Given what I know of this story, this version does it up right. Not only does it benefit from today’s cutting edge filming technology, it seems to have finally cast the right set of stars to bring the classic piece of literature to life. Without question, this adaptation is my personal favorite. It’s as romantic as it is pretty to look at.  

What about you: which adaptation of this story do you prefer? Have you seen Far from the Madding Crowd? Read the book? Share your comments down below.  

(Content: there’s a minor subplot involving a man having a child out of wedlock, and a man lashes out once at his wife [verbal abuse]. Prior to marriage, a man becomes familiar with a woman, touching and groping her [while clothed]. There's one scene of a married couple in bed, non-graphic. One man is fatally shot; other than that, the film earns its rating for some thematic elements. The film is rated PG13.)
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28 comments:

  1. I've been meaning to watch this from start to finish but haven't yet. I did read the book years ago but didn't like it (*gasps* lol. I thought it was really boring then, and I didn't really like Bathsheba's character if I recall) but since seeing the trailers for this adaptation I've been meaning to give it a try again. I do remember liking Gabriel's character a lot in the book and Matthias Schoenaerts is a wonderful actor (he's been on a roll lately with all these movies he's in!). And the scenery in this film looks gorgeous. Yes, definitely need to bump this up the list of movies to watch xD Great review!

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    1. Uh-oh! That's *not* a promising notion for the book. I ordered the book thinking it'd push me to try more classic literature, but if it's boring... it may just sit on my shelf and look pretty. Which is okay by me, honestly. ;)

      I get not liking Bathsheba. She is... a trial. I thought Carey did a beautiful job of balancing what Hardy likely intended for her or wrote her as, yet making her a softer version of the character. This is my favorite version thus far, and plus, it's stunning!

      Ooo, what else have you seen Matthias in? I've wanted to watch more of his films, but haven't gotten around to it. :)

      Thanks so much for visiting and reading, Lianne! Always enjoy chatting with you.

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    2. Oh no, I hope you enjoy the book! I may not have been in the mood to tackle Hardy for the first time when I had read it then (and I did hear it is one of his--if not the--happiest books). That's good to know that Carey did a great job in balancing her portrayal :)

      Matthias was also in Suite Francaise and A Little Chaos, which I was told he was wonderful in both. I have yet to watch them from start to finish but from what I've seen of both he's quite a versatile actor. Been meaning to especially watch the former as I loved the book by Irene Nemirovsky :)

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    3. I totally understand that, Lianne! That's my thoughts often as well; usually I blame myself as reason for not liking a book - especially if everyone else does. :) I suspect this IS one of his happiest stories if the films are anything to judge; "Greenwood Tree" is sweet as well.

      I've not seen either of the films you mention Matthias in, but wouldn't mind doing so. In fact I did volunteer to review the former. Ooops! Perhaps that means I need to getting watching. Hope you enjoy it! :)

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  2. I am so excited to see this one. It looks beautiful and of course Carey Mulligan is always amazing. I have it in my Netflix queue but I'm really trying to wait until after I read the book (which is currently on its way here from Book Depository...). I've never read any of Thomas Hardy's books yet or seen any adaptations, so I'm curious as to how I feel about them. :)

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    1. I ordered the book, thinking perhaps that'd encourage me to read more classic lit (plus it has the pretty movie poster cover!). It's not hear yet (I think it's been delayed by a preorder or something), but it may wind up being nothing but a pretty cover on my bookshelf. ;)

      I hope you like the book, Kristin. (Would love to know what you think after reading/seeing the story.) I've seen LOTS of Hardy's film adaptations (and to be honest, they all have a similar star-crossed love scenario), and this story is by far a favorite. It's only "outdone" by Under the Greenwood Tree, which is super sweet! :)

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  3. This movie looks really interesting! I heard about it (I don't remember where) but knew nothing about it until reading your review. Thanks for posting!

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    1. It is, Kara. Even if you don't love the story, it's really worth seeing for anyone who loves period drama - it's gorgeous! :) Thank you for reading as well as the comment. Always nice to chat with you.

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  4. I had been meaning to see this movie--in fact Gabrielle and I meant to see it when I visited her in June but we ended up going to see her gown and go to a wine bar afterward instead. LOL
    I'll have to rent it. Thanks for the awesome review, Rissi!

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    1. Nothing wrong with altering plans. It sounds like you and Gabrielle enjoyed a lovely visit! How exciting... I'm so happy for her. Her big day is nearing, right!? :)

      I'll enjoy hearing what YOU think when you see it, Meghan. Let me know - and thank you for reading. :)

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  5. I haven't read the book, but I did see the earlier version of this movie with Julie Christie. I liked this version MUCH better! I thought Carey Mulligan did a better job with the character of Bathsheba and oh my gosh...Gabriel. Swoon. The landscape shots were stunning too.

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    1. Me too, Brittaney! Didn't care for the Julie Christie adaptation much at all. Carey gave Bathsheba a more relatable persona and she was certainly much more likable; I think there is a more vulnerable, "human" quality to Carey's Bathsheba that no one else has managed.

      ... and Gabriel!? Yes! *swoon* He's amazing. My favorite of the three men in Bathsheba's life for sure.

      Thanks so much for sharing your opinions, Brittaney! :)

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  6. I have read the book and I have seen the movie and liked them both. Great review Rissi!:)

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    1. Good to know, Katie! I'd really like to attempt the book (and in fact, ordered it after seeing this), but we shall see. I'm glad you liked both. Thanks for reading. :)

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  7. I haven't seen any of the movies, or read the book, but it sounds like a really interesting (if somewhat serious) story! I think I may have to watch this movie now. Great review! :)

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    1. If you like period dramas, I think you'd enjoy this one, Candice. It takes some twists and turns, but ultimately, it's a wonderful story. Or I think so. :) Hope you like it if you decide to eventually check it out.

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  8. Yes to everything in this review!!! Fabulous costumes, cinematography, and locations (homes were so neat!). Carey played Bathsheba so well -- just a little aloof yet kind. I think she struggled with some self confidence issues, even with her strong personality. Weird is the best way to describe Troy. So strange. And Gabriel :) he was the best! I loved how he was quietly supportive of Bathsheba the whole time, how he stood by her, even when she was making some not-so-great choices.

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    1. I love chatting about these movies (and books of course!) with you Courtney. Everything about this one IS indeed gorgeous. It's definitely something I'll re-watch. :)

      Weird isn't the most eloquent a word, but Troy fits it. That whole scene with he and Bathsheba *shudder* Creepy. ;) Gabriel is my favorite. He is SO good. Not sure there'd be a way I wouldn't like him. I loved his character and how the actor played him.

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  9. I had never seen an adaptation of this before, but I liked it so much that I read the book too. :D And it's a very good adaptation! I love the characters and how well we can understand them. Nice review Rissi! :)

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    1. I'm glad to know this a good adaptation, Sarah! Makes me all the more interested in possibly reading the book. Isn't it great when the characters translate so well to screen!? :)

      Thank you for reading. :)

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  10. So great to hear that you've watched and enjoyed this movie Rissie! I absolutely loved it as well though I'm also very fond of the '90s adaptation. In fact, I'm having a FFTMC watch-along on my blog in October of the '90s adaptation! I think you definitely should try to read the book, it's one of my favourite classics and that's saying a lot as I'm not a big Hardy fan in general. Or, to be more precise, I do love his writing style, but very often I don't like his characters at all. But I love the characters in FFTMC, most notably Gabriel (le sigh...), but I grew to like Bathseba as well!

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    1. Thanks for the book encouragement, Birdie! I'm quite excited about the idea of reading it... but whether or not I will is up in the air. ;) I get that propensity (not like Hardy's characters). Aside from the death and sorrow that highlights most of his works (as adaptations), some of his main characters are the hardest to life.

      I need to re-watch the 90s version again... I just feel like this one is by far my favorite (the cast, the filming, the scenes). Gabriel is my ultimate favorite and I feel like Carey makes Bathsheba the most likable I've ever seen her. Have you an opinion there?

      Great thoughts - and thanks for visiting. :)

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    2. I think I'll have a better opinion once I did my 90s version rewatch next month. But I do remember liking Bathseba as well in that version, I think she's even more girlish and naïve in that version compared to the new version.

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    3. Really? I had the exact opposite remembrance. But you're probably right; I believe I've only seen the 90s version once, so I wouldn't be surprised that my memory is off about her characterization. :)

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  11. Oh this is perfect! Like you took the words right out of my mouth, except your movie-reviewing skills are vastly superior to mine. :) It's such a gorgeous movie. I did want to scream at Bathsheba to accept Gabriel in the beginning, though. Wouldn't life have been so much better? I think my only other experience with Hardy is watching the miniseries of Tess of the Durbervilles, which was pretty darn tragic, so I have to say I prefer this one. :)

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    1. Thank you, Rachel; I appreciate YOU reading and love to hear your thoughts (and I'd love to read a review by you on this one). :)

      This was a gorgeous film; definitely one I'll be re-visiting time and again. Bathsheba choosing Gabriel in the beginning would have avoided ALL. THE. DRAMA. There is no question about that - plus he was amazing! :) I also really like Under the Greenwood Tree as a movie. It's super sweet and believe it or not, written by Hardy.

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  12. I really, really, really want to see this movie........

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    1. It's AMAZING, Raquel. Or I thought so. :)

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