Far from the Madding Crowd

“Far from” perfect, but a well-made romance.
★★★
Movie Review #1,019

far_from_the_madding_crowd

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Drama, Romance
1 hour, 59 minutes
Rated PG-13 (some sexuality and violence)
Released May 22, 2015
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
From the novel by Thomas Hardy
Screenplay by David Nicholls
Starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple, Bradley Hall, Hilton McRae, and Jessica Barden

If you are capable of reading while listening to music, then I’ll recommend finding The Who’s “I Can See for Miles” and letting it play as you read this review. Why? Forgive me for starting out on an utterly corny note, but when you’re looking at “Far from the Madding Crowd”, you really can see for miles (and miles and miles and miles and miles). Thomas Vinterberg is a great director. We’ve seen this in his Danish works, and we see it now in his first British film, although we don’t see it quite as much. I’d like to say that there’s nothing he really could’ve done to make the film less predictable, but, in the words of Samuel L. Jackson, that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is, Mr. Vinterberg is the director, and when his vision of “Far from the Madding Crowd” turns out roughly as predictable as the average Nicholas Sparks movie, that’s his own damn fault.

“Far from the Madding Crowd” focuses on three men of different social status who are pining for the same woman. Within the first ten minutes, we already know who the heroine is going to end up falling for. Watching two hours devoted to goings-on among the only four people who don’t seem to know this can make for a less interesting experience, but maybe that’s the only thing the film doesn’t have going for it. The film is magnificently opulent, even for a period piece where such expectations are warranted. The music, from the increasingly versatile and brilliant mind of Alexandre Desplat, is majestically resemblant of late Romantic Era music. It’s a combination of the two that makes the ending so beautiful, we almost forgive it for being entirely foreseeable. But even so, they aren’t the best the film has to offer. It’s Carey Mulligan that makes “Far from the Madding Crowd” into a memorable film. At her best, she’s dissolved into the mind, body, and soul of the character; at her worst, she forms an emotional connection between character and audience. If she’s not nominated for the Best Actress Oscar this year, I blame Fox Searchlight Pictures for releasing the film so early in the year.

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