Far From The Madding Crowd


Carey Mulligan wears her impish grin and her impressive wardrobe to great advantage in Far From The Madding Crowd. As Bathsheba Everdene, she has spunk. She’s an independent woman who claims she doesn’t need a man—while three suitors want her.

Set in the late 1800’s in rural England, FFTMC (based on the Thomas Hardy novel) teems with sexual tension. When this beautiful woman on horseback meets her handsome neighbor, sheepherder Gabriel Oaks (Matthias Schoenaerts), the attraction leads to his quick proposal of marriage (and gift of a baby lamb). She says no.

Bathsheba inherits a successful farm from an uncle and hires Oaks (who has lost his farm after all his sheep die) to work for her. Meanwhile, middle-aged neighbor, bachelor farmer William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), offers his hand (and the prospect of a farming merger). Again, she says no.

Enter handsome soldier Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge). Yep, women love a man in uniform! He impresses her with his swordsmanship. (Is the sword a sexual metaphor? I think yes.) He introduces her to the pleasures of the flesh and marries her. But a quick case of buyer’s remorse sets in, leading to the story’s final chapters.

Not unlike a similarly named fictional character, Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games (novelist Suzanne Collins took the Everdeen name from FFTMC), Bathsheba operates proactively. She is not the demure flower of a woman we often see in Victorian era stories. She gets things done even if it causes her to get her hands dirty. When she jumps into the water to help with sheep washing, her farmhands (and Oaks and Boldwood) are impressed.

Director Thomas Vinterberg and screenwriter David Nicholls keep the story moving at a quick pace. (The 1967 version of FFTMC starring Julie Christie ran nearly an hour longer than the new film.) A nice slowdown is the after dinner song Bathsheba sings with Boldwood.

Carey Mulligan has turned in several impressive performances in recent years but has not dominated a film quite like she does in Far From The Madding Crowd. This is her showcase and she shines.







Breaking Dawn, Part Two

The best parts of “Breaking Dawn, Part Two” are the opening credits and the closing “curtain call.” I have mixed feelings about what comes between the start and the finish.

The majestic scenery of the Pacific Northwest is photographed beautifully for the lead-in to “Breaking Dawn, Part Two.” Bella is now a full-fledged, red-eyed, immortal vampire, capable of amazing feats. Edward and Bella are staying at the gorgeous Cullen home in the woods.

Jacob, who “imprinted” on the newborn Renesmee in “B.D., Part One,” hangs alongside at the Cullen pad. Jacob has to be a sexually frustrated man/wolf as he watches his former flame with his former rival.

The Cullens provide the newlyweds with their own little cabin in the woods, where they enjoy a tastefully romantic roll in the hay before confronting the movie’s big issue: what’s to become of little Nessie (as Jacob now calls her): Will she be mortal or immortal? Should the child go away with Jacob? Will those rival vampires, led by Michael Sheen, want to kill off the Cullens, including the kid?

Sure enough, a showdown is looming. The Cullens recruit vampire friends from around the world—Russia, Egypt, Ireland, South America, etc.—to join in the battle. Jacob promises the wolves will fight on the side of the Cullens. After an extended buildup, the faceoff occurs. What happens next will be revealed if and when you see the movie. No spoilers here.

This is a movie that accomplishes its mission, which is to get Bella and Edward to “happily ever after.” But, after the wedding, conception and birth in “Part One,” this movie is a bit of an anti-climax. “Twilight” hardcores, who’ve enjoyed the first four movies, will have to see this one. Casual fans of the series may want to take a pass.

Was it a good idea to make the final book into a two-part movie? It worked for the Harry Potter franchise; it will likely be a money maker for “Twilight.”

Director Bill Condon adds a nice touch at the end of this, the final (we think) “Twilight” movie. There’s a sort of “curtain call” with a shot of each of the many actors with their names and character names. More directors, especially those leading films with large casts, should do this.