Blu-Ray Review – Far From the Madding Crowd

farfrommaddening crowd

A couple of years ago a film with the pedigree of Far from the Madding Crowd would find its way into American theatres with more fanfare than the small indie drama adapted from a legendary novel it wound up becoming. Tamara Drewe, an adaptation of a comic strip inspired by the novel, wound up with similar treatment as the latest adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd winds up falling in the same category of indie drama that Drewe did: good but still in need of a longer, full adaption of the material.

Based off the novel of the same name by Thomas Hardy at the turn of the 20th century, the film and novel focus on Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan). She’s inherited a farm and finds herself the object of three different suitors’ affections. Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a sheep farmer and seems to be the proper pick based on his profession alone. Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge) is a soldier and plays on the passionate side of Bathsheba. Finally thrown into the mix is William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor.

Much like most adaptations of turn of the century novels, Far From the Madding Crowd suffers because it has to fit a fairly length novel into a limited run time. Even at slightly under two hours there’s substantial swathes of the novel that remain on the cutting room floor as the film has the problem every novel of that era has when it comes to film: huge chunks are cut out to make it able to be released into theatres. It’s the difference between every other version of Pride & Prejudice and the Colin Firth led mini-series. The latter had the ability to explore that world because it had many hours whereas the others had a limited timeframe to tell a fairly lengthy story.

It’s a shame, really, because Carey Mulligan continues to showcase her talents as perhaps the most talented of the next generation of actresses. Bathsheba is a difficult role, trying to play a more modern and independent woman in an era where women weren’t, and Mulligan carries a fairly solid adaptation on her shoulders like she has any number of films over the past couple years. She’s a curious casting based on her age, and youthful looks, but she understands the character’s world-weariness and manages to capture the character’s “old soul” eyes. It’s not her best performance, far from it actually, but it’s a very good one that’ll wind up being the one people search Netflix for years in the future to see what she did with the character.

Otherwise this isn’t a brilliant film, mainly because it has to cut enough from the novel that it gets the overall feel of the film but not the complete story. This is a novel waiting for a six hour mini-series in a modern adaptation, not two hours with lots cut for run time purposes.

There’s the usual deleted scenes, as well as an extended ending, in a number of EPK pieces included as extras.

Fox Searchlight presents Far from the Madding Crowd. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Written by David Nicholls based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Hardy. StarringJuno Temple, Tom Sturridge, Michael Sheen, Matthias Schoenaerts, Carey Mulligan. Run Time: 119 minutes Rated PG-13. Released on DVD:

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