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Reviews of Far From the Madding Crowd, Hot Pursuit and two music docs

Documentaries are your best bet this weekend. DOXA, which is on through Sunday, still has fine films playing like Iris (the last one by Albert Maysles), and Drone and Orion (both of which I reviewed last week). See the DOXA festival site for more.

The VanCity theatre has an early presentation of one of the strongest films I’ve ever seen: Going Clear, the expose of Scientology. It plays Wednesday and then gets a regular run starting Friday. I’ll have more on it then.

Meanwhile two music documentaries show us the early days of The Who and the last tour by Glen Campbell.

Here’s the entire list:

Far From the Madding Crowd:  3 stars

Hot Pursuit:  1 ½

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me: 3  

Lambert and Stamp:  3 ½

88: 2 ½     

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD: Hey, Hunger Games fans. Meet the woman your main character (Katniss Everdeen) was named after. Bathsheba Everdene is at the centre of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, which means she lived about 140 years ago and didn’t have to deal with dystopian societies, but with real life issues, such as how to run a farm and what kind of man to marry. She insists she’s independent and has no need for a husband  or become any man’s property.  But you know, the men come after her — and society expects her to respond.

 

There’s the decent but dull sheep farmer, played by Matthias Schoenaerts; the well-off older landowner (Michael Sheen) and the soldier adventurer so dexterous with his sword (Tom Sturridge). She makes the wrong choice; Hardyesque fate deals in several plot complications and people struggle. One goes mad.  

Carey Mulligan is perfect in the lead. She’s modern (in today’s terms), radical (for that time) and yet susceptible. She avoids overdoing any of those traits. Two of the men are fine but the soldier is played neither as hot nor as callous as he really should be. The bigger problem is with the film in general. It should be more intense. Thomas Vinterberg, the director, made two scathing films, The Celebration and The Hunt. Here, he delivers less passion and settles for an easy-going tone and pretty pictures. Perfectly fine entertainment but not stirring.  (5th Avenue) 3 out of 5    

HOT PURSUIT: Now that Reese Witherspoon is also a movie producer, she’s had two hits (Gone Girl and Wild) and given herself this authentic dud to star in. She’s a by-the-book cop in Texas who nobody takes seriously because she’s so small. She gets an assignment that could boost her status: drive a mobster’s wife across state to testify against a Latino drug boss. They have to deal with each other while gunmen and crooked cops chase after them. The fact that a story like this has been done many times before is only the beginning of this film’s problems. It’s a comedy that’s only intermittently funny but almost all the time shrill and frantic.

 

TV star Sofía Vergara is the moll. She mocks the “teeny tiny” Reese repeatedly and the two women get into noisy arguments. Of course, they’re supposed to grow to accept each other but that dynamic is clumsily handled. More weight is put on menstrual jokes, a lesbian scene to shock a redneck and various washroom misunderstandings and catfights. It’s not the kind of woman-centered entertainment I thought I heard Reese talking about. It’s more of a setback, I’d say. (International Village and many suburban theatres) 1 ½ out of 5    

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