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'Far From the Madding Crowd' review: Carey Mulligan leads a well-adapted classic

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdeen in "Far From

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdeen in "Far From the Madding Crowd." Credit: TNS / Fox Searchlight Pictures

Bathsheba Everdene sounds like an escapee from "The Hunger Games," and she is, in her own way, a feminist heroine of another time -- one freed by money rather than her skills as a warrior. In Thomas Hardy's 1874 novel (which he revised until 1901) and in Thomas Vinterberg's new adaptation, Bathsheba is that rare creature of 19th century England, a woman made independent by property. Not having to rely on one man to provide for her, she can choose among several. Therein lies the drama.

One is loved by Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan) but doesn't love her; another loves her, but leaves her cold. From a third she is divided by class. Mulligan, who always seems to keep her emotional cards close to her vest, presents a very different Bathsheba than the one many will fondly remember, from John Schlesinger's 1967 version of the same story. That film co-starred Terence Stamp, Alan Bates and Peter Finch, all circling Julie Christie, a much different actress than Mulligan, hence a much different movie.

Vinterberg's version which, perhaps by necessity, deletes large portions of the book, has as its male cohort Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge, all good actors if perhaps not the charisma fest presented by those heartthrobs of old. Mulligan, however, as she's proved many times, is a subtle and vaguely mysterious performer whose portrayal as Bathsheba possesses all the social complexities and emotional resonance of Christie's work -- as well as Hardy's.

Add to this the lush look of Vinterberg's film, with its wild English landscapes and rough Romantic-era atmosphere and "Far From the Madding Crowd" amounts to a sweeping interpretation of a still-classic story.

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