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Movie Review

Mulligan Is Remarkable In 'Madding Crowd'

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Far from the Madding Crowd is a historical love story that respects Victorian England more than one might expect-- at no time does Carey Mulligan, in a remarkably fine performance, suggest a 20th-century heroine, which is the more remarkable in that she is a sort of early feminist.

She sees nothing questionable about running her own plantation, and she is looking for neither love nor husband, at least until dashing redcoated soldier Tom Sturridge flashes upon the scene. She turns down two suitors, peasant-type Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen of cable's "Masters of Sex," in both cases with dignified and rational explanations. And while she and Sheen are pretty frank about the physical side of marriage, nobody seems much driven by it.

Toward the end, Far from the Madding Crowd does veer a little in the direction of coincidence and melodrama, but the damage is slight and most of the time it's impressive how much variety of emotion can be vividly portrayed within the old-time proprieties of action and language.

Plots, sets, costume and language are convincingly of the period, with no 20th-century feminist speeches or characters, and so supposedly period antifeminism-- only little assumptions and wordings that nobody is even aware of, except maybe Mulligan, who is too proper to comment on them if she even notices.

But there is a great deal of story for two hours. Toward the end, things get a little crowded and even sketchy, especially involving Sturridge. The big selling point for Far from the Madding Crowd will be Mulligan's performance, but the movie is all of a piece with no weak spots. Except, of course a refreshing lack of special effects and car chases.