Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple
Directed By: Thomas Vinterberg
It’s a very pretty, elegant looking film. It has all the assumed grandiose of a Jane Austen adaptation, just without any respect for its characters. The old ladies in my theatre just loved it though. I realize I’m perhaps not the target demo for this film, but if ladies over 75 is your target demo… you won’t be making movies much longer.
I actually have very little problem with the movie aspects, except maybe some exemptions from the source material. The characters are not very well fleshed out, which leaves almost everyone in the cast seemingly impulsive, and not really all that likeable. For example, Bathsheba (Mulligan) is all about not marrying, and not being tied down to a husband, and turns down two suitors. But when the third suitor basically swings a sword at her and grabs her vagina, she gives in immediately. What happened to the headstrong woman? Why did she fall for a complete tool? And the suitor in question has scenes that make you wonder… is he a douchebag, or not? The whole direction in his character is a mystery. Sometimes, we’re supposed to like him or feel sorry for him, and then in others… he’s obviously a villain. So, what’s the deal?
I felt bad for Michael Sheen’s character, who tried very hard to be on the outside of everything, only to be pulled in by Bathsheba’s flaky personality and somehow falling in love with her. Baffling. If this was a Jane Austen novel, she’d have chosen him. Sadly, this is a Thomas Hardy novel, who seems to be to romance what Uwe Boll is to good direction.
Here’s a tip. If you want your audience to not immediately realize that Male Suitor #1 and Female Protagonist are just going to end up together in the end, don’t give MS1 scenes by himself in the beginning, when basically the rest of the movie is told from her point of view. If he’s just another name on her list, then he should be treated as such. That way, we can actually get invested in the other characters instead of spending two hours waiting for them to get it on. I have no problem with the actors in this film. All of them acted their faces off. I even enjoyed Juno Temple, even after first seeing her and immediately thinking “Wow, what an odd casting choice”. I ended up really respecting the work she did. So, kudos to the casting team for this film.
If this is your idea of romance, please expand your horizons. Bathsheba, besides being saddled with a truly awful name, is also an awful protagonist. She talks about not wanting a husband, and then lets two decent suitors go, before almost impulsively marrying the third… who everyone said was an asshat. So much for female empowerment. And can we please stop powdering our men so they look like they’re on break from the Twilight franchise? Sturridge looks so fucking pale in this film I thought he was suffering from a vitamin deficiency. There shouldn’t be anything sexy about a lack of Vitamin D.
FINAL GRADE: C-