Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
Written by: David Nicholls
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Juno Temple, Michael Sheen
Synopsis: Far From the Madding Crowd, based on the 1874 book of the same name by Thomas Hardy, follows the tempestuous Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) who struggles to remain independent despite falling for three different men.
Why It Might Succeed:
Oscar loves the Brits, especially when they’re working off classic pieces of literature deemed required reading in college. Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd is evocative of almost all Hardy lit: A female protagonist suffers trials and tribulations after falling for the wrong man. It’s punishment porn in a way, and while I haven’t read this novel specifically I have to believe it’s easier to digest than something like Tess of the D’Urbervilles. In almost every year a British production-whether it be British-produced or starring British actors-has made it into the Best Picture line-up; see Philomena, Les Miserables, The King’s Speech. And widening the net even further, well-regarded costume dramas based on works of literature ten to have a place in the awards, particularly in Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design or Original Score. It’s a longshot but Carey Mulligan could fall into the footsteps of Emma Thompson and/or Kate Winslet, who both received Actress nods for their work in Brit lit adaptations, especially if her Bathsheba is a nuanced performance of ferocity and women’s liberation….then again Mulligan’s Suffragette next year could make this performance seem superfluous.
Director Thomas Vinterberg received a slew of acclaim for his work directing The Hunt, nominated for Best Foreign Language film just last year. If anything, Far From the Madding Crowd shows off his talent with an English language film and, if the movie’s exception, could lead to a directing nod.
Why It Might Not Succeed:
Hardy’s work has yet to receive prior Awards recognition, mainly because so few of his books are adapted other than this and the aforementioned Tess. Hardy’s books are fairly depressing, lacking the wit and joie de vivre of Jane Austen or something similar leading their age showing in some regards. If the script or direction of the movie is poor, voters could wondering why this wasn’t an episode of Masterpiece Theater. And while British productions are well-regarded in the Best Picture category, the heyday of the iconic British novel has come and gone. Far From the Madding Crowd’s closest comparison is Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility (both based on books from the 1800s) which gained its nomination in 1995. Even the movies of Merchant/Ivory, sumptuous and well-regarded costume dramas in themselves, were nominated in 1993 and 1986. Today’s crop of British adaptations are springing from more contemporary novels. If you’re quick to throw in Les Miserables, itself based on Victor Hugo’s tome, keep in mind the nomination is more for the Broadway adaptation as opposed it as an adaptation of the novel. Billie August’s 1998 non-musical based take on Les Mis failed to ignite awards fire. Movies of this ilk tend to stay confined to Costume/Production Design or Music as evidenced most recently by Joe Wright’s 2012 take on Anna Karenina. Even an earlier take on this same movie, 1967’s Far From the Madding Crowd starring Julie Christie failed to garner any nominations aside from Best Music.
It’s doubtful 2014’s Far From the Madding Crowd will see any significant awards recognition; that’s not to say it won’t receive nods from other awards ceremonies. Director Thomas Vinterberg’s been twice nominated by the BAFTAs for best Foreign Film for The Hunt, while screenwriter David Nicholl’s was similarly nominated for two BAFTA Television awards. The BAFTAs and Golden Globes should eat this up, but Oscar will probably let it slide.
Adapted Screenplay (David Nicholls)
Production Design (Kave Quinn and Niamh Coulter)
Cinematography (Charlotte Bruus Christensen)
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Original Score (Scott Fraser)
Costuming (Elizabeth Healy)