Thursday, May 7, 2015

Far From the Madding Crowd, Iris

Far From the Madding Crowd

Quick capsules on two chick flicks:

It's a woman's prerogative to change her mind, but the protagonist of Thomas Vinterberg's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd," Bathsheba Everdene (Katniss' family transposed the last two letters when they moved to Panem), takes fickleness to an extreme, and comes off dithery and blowsy in the bargain. She's non-U until her uncle dies, leaving her his farm and the surrounding acreage, which she determines to run as mistress. 

Every man she comes into contact with is instantly besotted: the jack of all trades Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), whom she fires and rehires so many times you know they're meant to be together; her neighbor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), who proposes marriage so submissively he all but fluffs the notional lover he encourages her to take; and the soldier Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), reduced here to a grotesquerie of chauvinism, avarice and foppish fecklessness. 

Bizarrely, the theretofore headstrong Bathsheba marries Frank after a heaving display of swordsmanship in "the gap in the ferns," but feels justifiable relief when he bites it on the battlefield. Carey Mulligan strives to make Bathsheba appealing, but as written here the character behaves so erratically from moment to moment the effect is indeed madding. Schoenaerts, unforgettable opposite Marion Cotillard in "Rust and Bone," has little to do but importune, inveigh, and glower meaningfully at Oak's rivals. Sheen never finds a way to make us care for the pathetic Boldwood. Sturridge is worst of all as Troy.

The penultimate flick by the late documentarian Albert Maysles, "Iris" spends time with the nonagenarian style maven Iris Apfel, she of the oversized black horn-rims and more-is-more approach to accessories. Apfel's a delight, as is her husband of 67 years, Carl, with whom she operated the textile firm Old World Weavers until they got an offer they couldn't refuse. Her apartments in New York and Palm Beach - wall-to-wall mélanges of couture and kitsch - are worth the price of admission, and she's got a lot of great one-liners stored up. But you get the sense Maysles didn't have much to leave on the cutting room floor, and I couldn't shake the feeling that there's a documentary about everyone now (or at least everyone in the fashion world). Watch "Iris" when it comes to cable.

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