Tamara Drewe

Tamara Drewe


Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Rude, loud, and blackly funny, Tamara Drewe from director Stephen Frears charmed audiences at Cannes earlier this year and should gain a healthy box office in the UK. Based on the comic strip from Posy Simmonds, it is a sort of modern retelling of Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd, stuffed with simmering envy, illicit sex, elitist backstabbing and moments of brutal violence. With a pitch-perfect main cast, snappy dialogue, and a swift pace, it may not be Frears' best but it makes few false moves either.

The setting is the rural village of Ewedown, home to acclaimed crime author Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam). Along with his devoted wife Beth (Tamsin Grieg), Nicholas has opened up his house to other writers as a form of retreat. In truth, Nicolas is addicted to the fawning praise he earns from these anxiety-addled guests and the other assorted fans and locals in the village. He is cheating regularly on his wife. Their gardener and assistant Andy (Luke Evans) can only look on with sadness.

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Things have seemingly been trundling along on like this for ever in the sedate Ewedown, until everything is thrown into confusion when Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) arrives in town. Tamara, who was once an ugly-duckling teenager, now has several years of plastic surgery and a flashy job as a journalist for The Independent behind her. Returning to refurbish and sell her old family home, Tamara soon attracts either the lust or jealousy of just about everybody - including Nicholas, Andy (who was her boyfriend of yesteryear), hipster drummer Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper), who Tamara takes up with after an interview, and two local scheming schoolchildren who want Ben for themselves.

The resulting mayhem plays out as a madcap romp, but Frears layers in a vicious streak to the proceedings that keeps the film from becoming saccharine. The Ewedown Tamara comes back to might look twee, but it is in fact a place of very English cruelty and envy. Nowhere is this better personified than in Nicholas' s nightmare of a writer's retreat; a place which, literally, could kill you.

The cast have a great time with the material they are given, Arterton, seemingly in every major CGI-driven Hollywood blockbuster these days, does well with comedic material, though her character is by necessity more a catalyst than protagonist. Tamsin Grieg knows just how to play Beth precisely in this kind of comedy, so she is neither too sympathetic or innocent. Roger Allam as the insatiable Hardiment threatens to run away with the whole picture, a man perfectly bored with his own success and a slave to his appetites.

The only real missteps the film makes is when it leaves these well-cast characters behind to jump to the schemes of schoolchildren Jody and Casey. Though ultimately their actions do tie in to the chaotic final denouement, the foul-mouthed banter of the teens wears the patience thin before long.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2010
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A columnist returns to her childhood home... but while she was away she has been transformed from an ugly duckling into a seriously sexy swan.
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Director: Stephen Frears

Writer: Moira Buffini, based on the comic strip by Posy Simmonds

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Bill Camp, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, Tamsin Greig, Jessica Barden, Charlotte Christie, James Naughtie, John Bett, Josie Taylor, Bronagh Gallagher, Pippa Haywood, Susan Wooldridge, Amanda Lawrence

Year: 2010

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: UK


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