FlixChatter Review: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

FarMaddingCrowdPoster

I have to admit the first time I heard about this novel was a few years ago when Richard Armitage’s character in the Christmas edition of Vicars of Dibley mentioned this Thomas Hardy’s novel as his favorite. Well, I remember reaching about what that novel was about and was immediately hooked. So a headstrong woman in Victorian England attracts three very different suitors, I definitely like the sound of that.

In stories like this, casting is crucial and that’s why I approach this review more from that angle. Let me start with the heroine, Bathsheba Everdene.

FarMaddingCrowd_Bathsheba

I love the fact that Bathsheba is played by Carey Mulligan who’s appropriately free spirited and convincing as an independent young woman. A woman living in 19th-century England would not straddle her horse like she does when she rides, and she works the farm just as hard as any man.

When she first encountered Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer, he’s immediately smitten and it’s easy to see why. Matthias Schoenaerts, who somehow reminds me of Viggo Mortensen in this role, portrays Gabriel with deep vulnerability. He’s all doe-eyed with a hint of smolder… not the steamy kind of smolder, but one infused with such sincerity that makes it easy to root for him.

FarMaddingCrowd_BathshebaGabriel

Their two lives somehow turned out drastically different — Bathsheba became wealthy when she suddenly inherited her uncle’s estate, whilst Gabriel came to a misfortune in one tragic night. The interesting dynamic of their circumstances only adds to the intrigue of their relationship, especially given how a female boss was quite a rare occurrence back in the day. I like how the film shows how Bathsheba tried to defy convention the best way she could, to make in a man’s world and be taken seriously as a farm owner.

The next suitor is more of Bathsheba’s equal in terms of economic status though he’s considerably older in age. Michael Sheen gives a dignified presence to William Boldwood, but also the appropriate sensitivity of someone who’s financially successful but one who’s been unlucky in love. The relationships between Bathsheba and these two men are especially engaging, it’s made a bit trickier by the fact that Boldwood likes Gabriel and appreciate his fervent loyalty.

FarMaddingCrowd_BathshebaWilliam

I’ve mentioned in this post that the casting of the third suitor is disappointing. Sergeant Frank Troy is described as a handsome, irresponsible and impulsive young man… so I imagine an actor with devilish charisma and undeniable sex appeal for the role. Well, no offense Tom Sturridge but you ain’t that person and you certainly did NOT convince me as someone Bathsheba would risk everything for. Thus, her abrupt decision seems so out of character and doesn’t feel true.

Yes, the much-talked-about swordsmanship scene in the woods was beautifully-filmed but that’s more of a testament of Thomas Vinterberg‘s directing and his ability to create such an ethereal ambiance. I wanted to THAT scene to take my breath away, to be rendered speechless and all tingly from the sheer passion of the two characters, but it just wasn’t to be. The love scene that follows also lacks any kind of eroticism, which made the entire relationship lackluster. It also didn’t help that Sturridge just doesn’t look like a soldier or someone with a hint of danger that could tame or intimidate a woman like Bathsheba. I believe that charisma, especially of a sexual nature, is not something an actor can train for.

FarMaddingCrowd_BathshebaTroy

The way the story unfolds is rather predictable. Yes it’s based on a novel so people who’ve read it would’ve known how things turns out, but for those who haven’t, Vinterberg didn’t create any suspense that’d make us guess who Bathsheba will end up with. But Vinterberg’s strength behind the camera is creating a lush and atmospheric look that serves the story well, thanks largely to his frequent collaborator Charlotte Bruus Christensen who also did the cinematography for The Hunt.

There’s a certain melancholy in the film to be expected but it doesn’t feel corny or contrived. Mulligan and Schoenaerts who share the most screen time have a lovely chemistry… the way they steal glances every chance they get is the kind of stuff romantic dramas are made of. Apart from that, I was kind of expecting something a bit more unconventional from Vinterberg. I was so impressed by The Hunt and this one seems like a lesser film by comparison, though it’s not exactly an apples and oranges kind of comparison, but in general sense. This feels more Hollywood, safer and less edgy, but thankfully there are still things I like about it.

I have to say that the fact that sound went out for about 3-4 minutes during the final scene between Bathsheba and Gabriel! It was excruciating because it’s supposed to be a key emotional scene. The sound came back 2 minutes before the ending but still, that was awful that it happened. I’m not going to fault this film for that snafu of course, but the miscasting of Sgt. Troy is a big one for me. It did not derail the film but it prevents the film from being a truly compelling and fiery romantic drama that I had expected.

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Have you seen this film? Well, what did YOU think?

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48 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

    1. I’ve had a few mishaps at movie theaters. During the early days of 3D showings, around early 2010s, the projectors were so dim I could hardly see what’s going on in the movie. I saw Thor and Captain America back in 2011 at a theater that were using bad digital projectors, they want to save the lamp power for 3D showings so they didn’t use the full lamp power on showing 2D movies. At that same theater, the surround sound didn’t work correctly while there were showing Robin Hood and this happened during the film’s climatic battle scene. Of course I was pissed!

      1. Wow Ted, that is super annoying when they had sound problem during big action scenes!! I’d be so pissed too, I really think they ought to give patrons a free voucher when that happens!

        1. It’s the Southdale theater, they had a lot of problems back then. Actually they still haven’t fixed some of their projectors and sound system, when I saw The Gunman there, the picture was very dim and the surround system didn’t quite sound like it’s working properly. I don’t go to that theater anymore unless there’s a press screening there.

  1. If there’s a British adaptation, I’m turned off by pretty boys and gorgeous women playing these roles. Carrie Mulligan seemed like a perfect choice. Pretty but not breathtaking. So, while I understand your distaste for Tom Sturridge lacking charisma, the same could be said for Sense and Sensibility starring Alan Rickman. But, I haven’t seen this (only read it), and I’m quite intrigued. Thanks for that, Ruth.

    1. Hi Cindy! Funny you mentioned Col. Brandon whom I absolutely love in S&S. I think his character is not meant to be a dashing, sexy hero the way Willoughby was, but someone who’s kind, elegant and thus he’s swoon-worthy in his own right. His charisma is perhaps not of a sexual nature but I still find him VERY attractive, more so than the younger, more virile co-stars. On the other hand, Troy is supposed to be this sexy, irresistible bad boy but the actor just failed to convey that.

  2. The sound went out, and they didn’t rewind the scene? Can they do that? I remember reading that they can’t. Um…

    I remember watching Martha Marcy May Marlene and there was a big black square in the middle of the screen. As I was literally the only one in the cinema I had to inform the workers of the mishap. I didn’t miss much so I didn’t ask for the money back, but it sounds like you did so I would been inclined to do so myself, but probably would have chickened out.

    The thing is this really isn’t my thing, I’m not really a romance watching kinda guy (shocker, eh?) but I do like Vinterberg and Mulligan so I rent this when it becomes available.

    1. Hi Myerla, no they didn’t rewind it. I wish they would! I really think there has to be a law to mandate that, heh. What happened to you sounds even worse, that warrants a refund I think.

      I think this one isn’t a standard romance even though it may sound like it. Definitely worth a rent for miss Mulligan alone.

  3. abbiosbiston

    This film looked really beautiful but it was so boring and other than Gabriel I hated all the characters… but that’s probably more Hardy’s fault than anything else.

    1. Hi Abbi! I hear ya, though I actually like Carey Mulligan in the role. You didn’t like Michael Sheen? I feel bad for him but Sturridge is awful!

  4. As you know I’m not a fan of period dramas so I’ve never heard of the book or this film that’s based on it. I’m with you on casting, it’s very disappointing when they cast a wrong actor for a role. That’s why I’m so glad The Dark Tower films never got a green light, I love Jarvier Bardem but he’s NOT The Gunslinger. If/when the films finally gets made, I hope they cast the right actor for Roland The Gunslinger.

    There’s no excuse for the sound to go out in a movie theater, especially in our current digital age. Unless they were using film projector? In any case, that’s in excusable!

    1. Hi Ted, I don’t think you’d enjoy this one to be honest. But yeah, casting is crucial in certain things, well for most movies but more so than others. When are they gonna make The Dark Tower?? Seems to be in production hell for ages.

      Yep, no excuse at all but it’s a small indie theater so I suppose that probably happens more often.

      1. The last rumor I read was that Warner Bros. might try to bring The Dark Tower to the big screen. I’m actually hoping that the rights that both Ron Howard and Brian Glazer owns will run out and then it would end up in the hands of Nolan. This would be something he’d be great at and he can build another franchise for Warner. Of course that’s just a dream. Ron Howard is awful at casting actors for his films, Tom Hanks as Langdon, love Hanks as an actor but he’s totally wrong in that role.

  5. Lovely review, and so well thought out and balanced! I can’t wait to see this myself, as I loved the 67 version and like most of the cast here.

    As far as snafus are concerned…when I was in the theater seeing A Beautiful Mind with my GF on opening night, the theater caught fire and we had to evacuate. Thankfully, it was a small and contained fire and after waiting outside for about an hour and a half we were allowed back in to finish the movie.

    1. Hi Drew! Thank you my friend. Is the 67 version w/ Julie Christie? I want to see that as it looks really good!

      The theater caught fire??! OMG, thankfully you guys were all right.

      1. Yes, the 67 version with Alan Bates, Julie Christie and Peter Finch is amazing! The cinematography and acting is superb. I just love it so much. You’d really like it, I’m sure.

        Yeah, it was a small fire, but a fire nonetheless. LOL, it was exciting, sort of.

        1. Very cool! I’ll look for that one. Even based on the poster alone, Terrence Stamp looks like a more smoldering Sgt. Troy!

          Ahah, well at least you’re allowed to finish the movie but an hour & a half?? Wow, I don’t know if I’d bother to stick around THAT long in the theater.

  6. I don’t know what’s the dilemma here for the main chick, I would choose Sheen right away ^^ I’m gonna check this one out, though I’m not the big fan of the other actors in it. Great review! And yeah that little guy with cherub’s face definitely lacks sexual charisma, any charisma really

    1. Y’know what, I would too! Sheen looks good in period garb plus his character is elegant and rich. I like Matthias but he’s a bit too reserved for me, too melancholy. Ahah little guy w/ cherub face, Troy looks like something out of a boy band. No charisma at all, it’s hard to believe any girl would fall for a guy like that.

        1. Ahahahaha, I’m thrilled that I’m not the only one baffled why they consider HIM attractive!! They must be the same tasteless people who went ‘ewww’ on your Stannis gifs, heh.

  7. Oh, that’s terrible! I’m hopefully seeing this later this week, but I’m keeping my expectations down a bit. Fingers crossed that the sound doesn’t go out. 😉

    1. Hey Josh! I’m curious what you think of it. I REALLY want to love this film, as I like Mulligan a lot. But I had reservations about Sturridge casting and he confirmed my dread.

  8. I finally managed to see this one at the weekend and was left a little disappointed. I think you’re right when you say it’s too Hollywood. The plot felt mechanical and the characters’ flaws and complexities were muted. Vinterberg gives us a far more sympathetic Troy than Hardy does. I would also like to have seen more of Boldwood’s fiery temper. Comparing books and films is a tricky business but I’m not sure this quite lives up to other films in its genre.

    1. Hi Natalie! Been wondering when you’ll get to see this. Yeah, I think despite the atmospheric quality, the overall direction didn’t quite sweep me off my feet as I expected. I felt that Troy’s characterization and casting is off, he just wasn’t charming nor dangerous enough, and like you said he seems a lot *nicer* than what I imagined his character to be. I thought Sheen was good as Boldwood but you’re right, he’s not as fiery so when that shooting happens, it seemed out of character for him.

    1. Hi there, welcome to FC. Yeah I was expecting something that left me breathless but it wasn’t to be. There are still things I like about it though but, Troy’s casting is NOT one of them.

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  10. I’m still going to check this movie because you know, Carey Mulligan. Stories about independent woman in Victorian times always interesting

    1. Hi Andina! If you like Carey, it’s definitely still worth a rent. Yes the independent woman in Victorian times sure makes for an intriguing drama, if only the casting of all three male characters were spot on.

  11. I’ve been looking forward to this one since I love the Julie Christie version so much but a few things have given me pause and after reading your take I think they’ll be proved out. The first was that the ’67 version is a full hour longer than this, that’s a great deal of story to lose although the first could have probably been trimmed by 15 minutes that’s still 45 minutes of exposition. The other was that the first was so ideally cast and while I sensed that both Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen while no Alan Bates nor Peter Finch were good matches for their characters the other two leads didn’t seem right. I really like Carey Mulligan but her screen persona has never been the unaware enchantress who could bewitch three men without realizing she’s doing it something that Julie Christie undeniable was able to do. Still it sounds like her interpretation while understandably different works at some level. The biggest potential flaw is the one that looks to be borne out and that’s Sturridge. In the original Sgt. Troy was played by Terence Stamp and there are few who could play the cold eyed selfish bastard as well as he. I haven’t seen much of Sturridge’s work but what I have gave no hint of being able to handle that..it looks like that was a correct impression.

    That stinks about the loss of sound. Having managed a theatre I can attest that those sort of glitches, and worse, do happen but the management should have offered the entire audience passes to make up for it if they were aware. If a similar situation were ever to happen again speak to the manager and he or she should take care of you, if they don’t or give you a hard time ask for the name of their DM. You pay for a full uninterrupted experience and they didn’t deliver.

    1. Hello there Joel! Thanks so much for the great, insightful comment! You made me want to check out the ’67 version even more now. There’s also the 1998 version w/ Colin Firth’s brother Jonathan as Sgt. Troy apparently, have you seen that one?

      I hear ya about Carey Mulligan perhaps not being fetching enough at first glance for 3 men to fall for her, but I actually think she is captivating. Maybe not just in terms of looks but her demeanor and confidence, the way she carries herself is intriguing, so I have no qualms on that casting front. Schoenaerts and Sheen are fine in the roles, Oak is rather melancholy whilst Boldwood is a bit temperamental. But yes, the flaw lies largely w/ Sturridge who’s utterly miscast as Sgt. Troy. Even just looking at the photos of Terrence Stamp in the role I knew his icy blue eyes sold me on the character. First impression is everything in any role and Sturridge was never believable from the get go.

      As for the sound snafu, well it was a press screening so I can’t ask for a refund. Plus the PR company did say they were having technical difficulty before the screening so I suppose it could be worse.

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  15. I like all three versions of “FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD” very much. But my favorite version is the 1998 miniseries with Paloma Baeza and Nathaniel Parker.

    Both the 1967 version and 2015 version did very little with the Fanny Robin character, aside from using her as a plot device. The 2015 version did not feature Frank’s near encounter with Bathsheba and Boldwood at the circus. And the 1967 version did not feature Frank helping Bathsheba’s farmhands in the field. But I do have one major problem with the 1967 version. The chemistry between Julie Christie’s Bathsheba and Alan Bates’ Gabriel seemed lacking. This is a problem for me, since I have always viewed the Bathsheba/Gabriel relationship as the backbone of Hardy’s story.

  16. Evelyn

    It’s not quite a masterpiece and some parts seemed a little rushed, but Thomas Vinterberg’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic is gorgeously filmed, romantic, and features a marvelous central performance from Carey Mulligan as the fierce, independent Bathsheba.

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