- "The Making of Under the Greenwood Tree" featurette
Under the Greenwood Tree
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Under the Greenwood Tree (DVD)
In a small village in the south of England, Dick Dewy, a handsome working man, falls in love with Fancy Day, a newly arrived schoolteacher from a wealthy family who happens to be the village beauty. But other, richer men also want to win the hand of Fancy. There's Farmer Shiner, a wealthy landowner, and Reverend Maybold, the decent young vicar. Who will win Fancy's hand? And even if she agrees to marry Dick, will her father consent to the marriage? This charming, timeless story of rural life gave Thomas Hardy his first real taste of success, and with its rustic setting and moving tale of young love, it weaves a spell that still entrances today.]]>
The radiant glow of Keeley Hawes--an English rose if ever there was one--anchors Under the Greenwood Tree, a light romance from the normally gloomy pen of Thomas Hardy (The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urbervilles). When a young educated woman with the preposterous name of Fancy Day (Hawes, Tipping the Velvet) returns to a small village to care for her father, she finds herself pursued by three very different men: The poor but handsome Dick Dewy (James Murray, Sons and Lovers), the crude but wealthy Mr. Shiner (Steve Pemberton, The League of Gentlemen), and the erudite but pompous Parson Maybold (Ben Miles, Coupling). The story is slender but enjoyable, with hints of class conflict and the changes due to come from the impending Industrial Revolution. Hawes lends her considerable intelligence and charm to the put-upon Miss Day; she makes you feel the eroticism of washing your hands in the same basin with an attractive man. The accompanying "making of" documentary is also pleasant, though it goes on a bit too long about artificial snow. --Bret Fetzer
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Fancy Day comes to the village of Mellstock as the new school teacher. She's young and quite lovely and has men lining up as suitors. In particular, there's Dick Dewey, local moving man, Vicar Maybold, and the rich farmer Frederic Shiner.
Hardy originally was going to call this "The Mellstock Quire". That would have been a very appropriate, but less catchy, choice for the name because of the importance of music to the story. It begins with the village choir reveling and singing on Christmas Eve and the first meeting of Dick Dewey, as a member of the choir, and Fancy, newly-arrived schoolmistress. Music continues its importance with the acquisition of an organ for the village church. That's the initiative of Vicar Maybold, who decides to replace the choir with Fancy at the organ.
The romantic entanglements and the music/choir/organ plot line run nicely together. Keeley Hawes is a delightful Fancy and James Murray is a personable Dick Dewey. (Although he could have used a few more workouts at the gym before his shirtless scene. Yes, I am just that shallow.)
I've had this movie for a few years now and enjoy watching it every so often, especially after a turn with Tess or another of Hardy's tragic heroines. This is a relatively lighthearted Hardy book made even more lighthearted in this adaptation.
My only critiques the dreadfully painted fake snow drifts (filmed in England, why couldn't this heavily English garbed period piece in four-season setting have used actual winter?) and the director's shift from Hardy's awakening young male hero to the young female's perspective emancipating them from rural into turn-of-the-century industrial Britain but this detour from Hardy's too much the director's proudly admitted copying Bathsheba Everdene and "Far From the Madding Crowd" instead of being true to Hardy's, making me want to read his novella and to look for an older version of the film to experience this idyllic time in England from a coming of age young Hardy's horizon.
Still, Hardy could not but be pleased by the beautiful and irrepressibly hopeful expectation of love, joy, and fun of youth and other passions too--surprising how rich the lingering takeaway, though should not be since it is after all a Thomas Hardy.
I've never read the book, but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The chemistry between Keeley Hawes and James Murray was evident from the beginning, and their romantic scenes were more than satisfying. I especially loved their second kiss in the woods when, right after it happens and before it continues, Dick Dewey (Murray) says to Fancy Day (Hawes), "I knew you felt the same, Fancy. I knew it. I tasted it on your lips the first time I kissed you." I mean, come on, that is hot! I'd want to kiss him again, too! You just don't hear lines like that anymore. And what is even hotter is the scene in the river with a half-naked James Murray. Now I know he's a little scrawny, but the faint ab lines and the wet bod are plenty tasty eye candy for me.
Aside from all that hot stuff, I enjoyed the classic struggle Fancy was faced with, choosing love or choosing to be loyal. It's fun to watch all the tension and the misunderstandings unfold as the end of the story draws nearer.
This really was a great BBC classic, and the quality of the picture is very comfortable to watch. It's not fuzzy or furry like some of their older productions, the sound is of good quality, and the costumes were well-executed right along with the setting and the props.
But this movie has a happy ending.
Filmed in real British village settings, full of old timey charm.