FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD:  Remembering fondly the 1967 screen version of this Thomas Hardy novel, I had some trepidation about another "remake."  How can you beat that earlier cast of Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Terrance Stamp and Peter Finch?   And the answer is….you surpass it.  Carey Mulligan portrays Bathsheba Everdene, the headstrong, independent woman living in Victorian times and being courted by three different suitors: a sheep farmer, a dashing soldier and a prosperous mature bachelor (played by Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge and Michael Sheen respectively). Perhaps because they are still virtually unknown actors, they make this film shine.  Whereas in the earlier film, you were always aware you were watching “movie stars,” in this version you are much more aware of character and the nuances that the actors bring to their roles.  I saw this with four other people and we had mixed reactions….three of us (myself included) loved it and two thought it too long and slow.  I admit it is slow but also riveting with beautifully photographed scenery and downright great performances.  I thought the whole endeavor was superb.  So, you will have to decide for yourself.

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