RogerBW's Blog

Tamara Drewe 15 May 2014

2010, dir. Stephen Frears, Gemma Arterton, Luke Evans: IMDb / allmovie

Tamara Drewe, formerly the ugly duckling and now a glamorous journalist, returns to the village where she grew up… and everything is upended.

This is a romantic comedy in the true sense, since while the larger plots are all about getting people into their right pairings there's plenty of smaller material that's simply funny (while ultimately feeding into the larger). It's not a film to take at all seriously; characters are in the broadest of strokes, from Nicholas the permanently philandering crime novelist via his long-suffering wife Beth (who does the actual work of running the writers' retreat where other writers stay as paying guests) to the smouldering local lad Andy ("you're just a sex object" explains the barmaid in the local).

In spite of Gemma Arterton's top billing, the real stars of this for me were Roger Allam and the always-excellent Tamsin Greig as Nicholas and Beth. They manage to transcend their sometimes stereotyped roles with the quirk of an eyebrow: yes, they seem to say, this is utter tosh I'm speaking, isn't it? But it works on the punters. We know better.

The story is based on a comic strip by Posy Simmonds (itself inspired by Far from the Madding Crowd and, one assumes, French farce), and sometimes the pacing is not ideal. Some bits take longer than they might; others go past too quickly. (At least one bit goes past far too heavily for one unfortunate character. You'll know it when you get there.)

What this film has to offer is a funny story about grown-ups; some of them are driven more by their hormones than others, but there is still a gulf of life and experience between them and the two splendidly horrible schoolgirls Jody and Casey, who would serve as a Greek chorus except that they are also responsible for much of the mischief that occurs.

Really, Tamara Drewe herself comes off as the third most interesting of the female characters here after Beth and Jody, which I suspect is not how the strip did it.

This is light-weight but moderately clever entertainment. Not a film for the ages, but an agreeable 110 minutes. (And how often does a plot twist become apparent through the lyrics of a song in the closing credits?)

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