They say that being a Bond girl is the kiss of death for the career of a young actress as they make their one blockbuster movie and then disappear into obscurity. One actress currently bucking the trend is Gemma Arterton who, having appeared in ‘Quantum of Solace’ alongside 007 Daniel Craig, doesn’t seem to be letting the grass grow under her feet. Since then, we’ve seen her in the recent ‘St Trinians’ revivals and now she gets the chance to show her true acting credentials in the title role of ‘Tamara Drewe’ – out now on American Region A locked Blu-ray.
Based upon the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, ‘Tamara Drewe’ is the tale of a young girl who grew up as an ‘ugly duckling’ in the picturesque country village of Ewedown with a particularly large hooter, before leaving to make her way in the world. Now she’s back after having a nosejob with a much more petite proboscis and is a journalist on ‘The Independent’. Her new found good looks aren’t lost on the male populace of the village and in particular on Andy Cobb (Luke Evans), a former boyfriend and now local handyman.
A pretentious, middle aged, famous local writer - Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) - has his eye on her too as he ends an affair with another mistress and constantly lies to his wife Beth (the wholesome Tamsin Greig) who tries hard to put up with it. This all takes place while they act as a retreat for aspiring new writers who hope to gain inspiration from working among the surrounding beautiful English countryside, aided and abetted by Beth’s cream teas and home baking.
As Tamara makes her big entrance, she crosses the field and climbs over the Hardiment’s style in bottom hugging shorts. As she walks towards the group, it’s like watching two kids fighting under a blanket. Her figure attracts much attention and elicits various admiring remarks from the writers, while Beth is more concerned about the possibility of the tight fitting shorts giving her thrush. A very practical woman, that Beth. Also observing the new arrival in the village are a pair of disaffected teenage girls (Jessica Barden & Charlotte Christie) who hang around the local bus shelter and are utterly gobsmacked to find that Tamara is dating none other than their favourite boy band drummer, Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper).
As we move through the seasons we find that the alluring Tamara not only has the attentions of Ben, but she also flirts with Andy while having an affair with another member of the local male population. She’s a gal! The two young girls meddle in her affairs with the sole intention of meeting Ben, but end up causing some real harm that leads to a serious conclusion. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out the full details as I’m not telling.
Directed by Stephen Frears (‘The Queen’, ‘Dangerous Liaisons’) ‘Tamara Drewe’ has quite a lot going on and many characters demanding screen time. All the same, the story is told confidently and without cutting corners while being shoehorned into the 111 minutes running time. Despite this the film has a leisurely, laid back pace – no doubt mimicking the rural idyll where there seems to be no real hurry. The country setting for the picture is bathed in a yellow glow by Director of Photography Ben Davis as it fills the widescreen frame in a very eye pleasing manner. This is real chocolate box cover stuff and Miss Arterton is quite easy on the eye too.
While the film has been given the big screen treatment, it had all the feeling of a BBC production for me – so it should come as no great surprise that BBC Films provided some of the funding. This is no criticism, but merely that I could imagine this being shown as a Bank Holiday new movie at some point in the future.
Gemma Arterton is a very pretty young lady who acquits herself rather well in the acting stakes. She conveys a fresh, modern girl sexiness together with a knowing confidence in her own good looks as well as having the ability to display real emotion when required.
Roger Allam turns in a very assured performance as the famous writer to whom the other lame ducks turn for words of wisdom that will help unlock their own careers as writers. Sadly they very rarely escape his lips. His character has all the arrogance of someone who has lied so continually to his wife that his routine has developed into a clearly recognizable pattern – so obvious that you feel he wants to be found out. Australians would say that he ‘has tickets for himself’.
Tamsin Greig as the kind, long suffering wife is such a nice person that you cheer her on as she eventually lets off steam at her philandering husband. You truly feel that this should not happen to her. She portrays the inner hurt so convincingly, yet very discretely. You also feel her hidden innermost passion as she gets on comfortably with Glen, one of the writing group, and it’s the gentle moments as they stand quietly together at the farm gate enjoying the sunset that hint that something may be growing here.
Ben Cooper as the obnoxious, foul mouthed, Porsche driving young drummer displays many unpalatable characteristics too so that you almost want something bad to happen to him. Then there’s the jealousy of the fact that he has someone as gorgeous looking as Tamara, but she’s no Angel either so they are well matched. A Barbie and Ken of this decade.
The language used in ‘Tamara Drewe’ is of an adult nature at times which is probably why it received an ‘R’ rating on this US Blu-ray release. I’m no prude, but I was surprised at its use. Maybe it was because it seemed so incongruous with the beauty of the setting. I just felt that it wasn’t needed to tell the story, but perhaps it was just required to add some modern day realism to the piece.
Overall, ‘Tamara Drewe’ is a movie about people who are not perfect by any means and so it hooks you in to the story. There’s enough time to get to know the well drawn characters and to immerse yourself in their world for the duration. You want to see where it is going and many may find the ending shocking while others may find it ultimately satisfying. There’s also a bit of black humour at work here. It depends on your point of view. This very British production is worth a viewing for the solid performances as well as the plate spinning act handled so well by director Frears. Unlike many a Hollywood blockbuster, it does require you to engage your brain but there’s enough dry humour to keep it lively throughout. A nice change from the run of the mill Star vehicle.
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