Tamara Drewe

(2010) *** R
109 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Stephen Frears. Cast: Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Bill Camp, Dominic Cooper, Tamsin Greig.

/content/films/3864/1.jpgOh my yes, I think it must be time again for a spot of celluloid, don’t you think? And I hear Tamara Drewe is ever so charming. It’s the new Stephen Frears, you see, and one can always rely on dear Stephen for a tasteful film that’s also just a bit cheeky. Why, just think of The Queen, The Snapper, High Fidelity (American, that last one, but we can forgive that, I’m sure). The old boy has gotten his hands on some frighteningly interesting material this time: it’s based on what my grandkids call a “graphic novel” (by some whippersnapper named Posy Simmonds). Comics, don’t you know. Well, I wasn’t too keen on all that, all-colour or otherwise, but the thing is this comic was inspired by the Thomas Hardy novel Far From the Madding Crowd. Well, I think we can all get behind that, what?

So it’s set in Dorset, our glorious—well, provincial, anyway—English countryside (one person calls it “the bumhole of nowhere”—see, cheeky!). On the jolly good old sheep farm, there’s now a writer’s retreat, a good place to gather a bunch of pompous characters for our amusement. Sort past the romance novelist and the lesbian punk fiction writer and you find all the Hardy-esque characters: philanderer Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam), the arrogant author of airport-fiction crime novels; his long-suffering wife Beth (Tamsin Greig); and a good-natured but bumbling American academic (isn’t that an oxymoron?) named Glen (stage vet Bill Camp). Meanwhile, Andy Cobb (Luke Evans) is the man’s man—as opposed to the chap’s chap, I suppose—who works the farm.

From what I understand, everything goes higgledy-piggledy when Tamara Drewe returns to claim the neighboring farm, which was Andy’s ancestral home until his hard-up family sold it off to the Drewes. Tamara and Andy had a dalliance, once upon a time, when her post-surgical petite nose was still what the Yanks call a “honker.” Nothing to get in the way of the snogging now, is there? Wait a tick, how about a rock star (Dominic Cooper of Mamma Mia) who journalist Tamara meets and brings home. Before you can say “How’s your father?” they’re a couple and Andy is gutted. So are the pair of besotted teenage birds (Charlotte Christie and Jessica Barden) who hang about the bus stop that’s no longer in service; their jealous gossip wreaks havoc, spreading o’er hill and dale like wildfire.

Well, listen to me, going on about a movie I haven’t even seen, but it does sound quite entertaining, doesn’t it? My cup of tea. I do hear that Tamara’s the least interesting character in the movie named for her, which sounds a bit rubbish. Still, they say Grieg and Camp are bloody good, and especially Allam as that beastly cad Hardiment, with his bollocks excuses for his infidelity. Rather timely, that, what with today’s political scene. I’m chuffed for any movie with some satirical snap to its characterizations: what say we totter over to the local cinema? Cheers, then!

[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]

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