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Far From the Madding Crowd’ is a refreshing take on a classic

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Far From the Madding Crowd

Three and a half stars

Far From the Madding Crowd Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.

Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd features a heroine, Bathsheba Everdene, who’s usually portrayed as a wild force of nature. (The most famous onscreen interpretation of the role is Julie Christie’s, back in 1967.) Carey Mulligan has a different view of the character—one that’s less rousing but arguably more intriguing. So forthright, direct and plainspoken are her rejections of impoverished suitor Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) and wealthy suitor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) that it’s all the more wrenching when she finally loses her heart to the dashing but duplicitous Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge).

Directed by Denmark’s Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration, The Hunt), this latest adaptation of Hardy’s novel, running a brisk two hours, necessarily does a lot of cutting and condensing, with Sergeant Troy’s true beloved, Fanny Robbin (Juno Temple), taking the worst of it. On its own terms, however, it’s a solid telling of Hardy’s classic story that chooses to underline the author’s particular brand of proto-feminism. Mulligan so convincingly makes Bathsheba a woman with no need for a husband that she threatens to make Hardy’s happy ending—a rarity for him—play false. But that’s a small price to pay for her welcome company.

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