Judge Roman Martel reviews a movie based on a comic book that doesn't have a megalomaniacal super-villain in it.
When you put "From the director of The Queen and
Facts of the Case
Nicolas Hardiment (Roger Allam, V for Vendetta) and his wife Beth (Tamsin Greig, Shaun of the Dead) own and operate a retreat for writers in the English countryside. Nicolas is a writer of a popular espionage series, but when he isn't writing he's fooling around with his latest girlfriend. Beth catches on to his indiscretions and things flare up.
Thats when Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) arrives. She grew up in the small village and had left it to make her fortune in London. Now she's returned, a writer for a major magazine with a new nose and fresh attitude. She grabs the attention of Andy Cobb (Luke Evans, Clash of the Titans) a young man who helps on the Hardiment's retreat. But before Andy can make his move, a tough guy drummer named Ben (Dominic Cooper, Mamma Mia!) swoops in and gets entangled. Of course Nicholas can't keep his mind off Tamara either, and things spiral out of control. Throw in a couple bored teenage girls, a herd of cows and a wayward email, and you have a recipe for sexual dalliance, jet black humor and a sticky end for one of our main characters.
Yes, it's true; Stephen Frears has now directed his first comic book film. Okay, so the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds isn't your typical superhero fare. It is actually based on the Thomas Hardy novel Far from the Madding Crowd, but with a modern flare and a rock band. Still I can see how the story attracted Frears.
This is a movie about twisting relationships between people. Tamara is the catalyst for much of the mayhem that follows, but almost all of these issues were already brewing before she shows up. But with her tight clothes and devil may care attitude, she attracts these three men and causes quite a bit of confusion.
Well, we can't pin it all on Tamara. The two teenage girls Jody (Jessica Barden, Coronation Street) and Casey (Charlotte Christie) play a big roll in getting things mixed up. Both girls are bored with their lives in the small town, enamored with sexy drummer Ben, and have no problems with breaking into Tamara's home. The funny thing is that Jody is like a mini version of Tamara, confused about who she is and angry at her lot in life.
Frears and his cast do a great job balancing all the soapy shenanigans with the dark humor. Arterton makes us believe that Tamara is a woman trying on a new identity and still not sure who she really is. She makes some impulsive decisions, and while we may not like her, we understand where she's coming from.
I also thought Allam was a top notch sleaze as Nicholas. He plays his scenes so well that you really dislike him, but still understand why he is acting like an ass. Not that I agree with his logic. Grieg plays the part of the suffering wife well. You feel that she used to really love her husband, but his continual stepping it out is taking its toll.
The English countryside looks gorgeous in the film and Frears maximizes the effect with some great camera set ups, balancing the dialogue with the visuals. Alexandre Desplat provides a nice supporting score that accents the dark humor in many of the key scenes.
Sony's disc is a solid offering. The picture looks very good, and the sound balance between the music and dialogue is handled well. You get a commentary track with Arterton and Evan discussing the film and the experience of shooting it. There's an EPK style featurette that gives you a bit of behind the scenes footage. There is also a interview with Arterton and Frears discussing how the graphic novel was adapted into the screen play, but also inspired the visuals of the film as well as Arterton's performance. It's an interesting segment.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is one of those movies where the main character's actions are going to annoy some viewers. My wife found it difficult to enjoy the film because she ended up disliking Tamara, the two teenage girls and Nicholas. Since these characters comprise about 88% of the screen time, this could be a problem.
This movie is funny, but it's a pretty dark brand of humor. Some folks are going to be turned off by the sardonic and snarky nature of the film.
Tamara Drewe fits just fine in Frears filmography. More than that, it's an entertaining film. The performances are great and the scenery is beautiful. Check it out if you're in the mood for a moody English comedy.
Tamara is guilty of creating confusion in her home town.
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