Tamara Drewe and the Comedy of Going Plastic in a Rustic World
Comely, independent, willful young lass returns to collect family inheritance in rural England, drives the local men wild, makes several misalliances, and inadvertently precipitates a catastrophe before nature finally takes its course. Adapted from Posy Simmondss excellent graphic novel, Tamara Drewe knowingly updates Thomas Hardys gloomy pastoral Far From the Madding Crowd and entertainingly postscripts Hans Christian Andersens Ugly Duckling.
As directed by old pro Stephen Frears, the film is an ensemble affair, akin to a weekend-party comedy. The country house is a working writers retreat (far from the madding crowd per its classified ad), owned by a smugly successful, womanizing hack (Roger Allam) and administered by his long-suffering, cake-baking domestic muse (Tamsin Greig). Notable residents include a Hardy-specializing academic nebbish (Bill Camp) and the farms hunky handyman (Luke Evans). The eponymous heroine, formerly burdened with a world-class honker, makes her triumphant, nose-jobbed reappearance in the near-perfect form of Bond girl Gemma Arterton. The guys are smitten from the moment she bounds over the fence in tank top and cut-offs, although she confounds them by taking up with a sullen rock star on sabbatical (Dominic Cooper).
The dramatis personae are rounded out by a dissolute pair of local teens (Charlotte Christie and Jessica Barden) who worship the rocker, resent Tamara, and loathe the smooth and doughy hack. Commenting on the action as a rude Greek chorus even while providing the plots deus ex machina, the schoolgirls are the movies funniest characters; Tamara, whom they call Plastic, is the most complex. Despite the evident pleasure that this adventurous, super-confident creature takes in her newly acquired powers (shes a newspaper columnist as well as a beauty), her anatomy is still her destiny: Tamaras dealings with men are as consistently unfortunate as those of her less attractive sisters, the hacks matronly wife and the rockers adolescent admirers.
Directed by Stephen Frears
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens October 8
Tamara Drewe is self-consciously rustic (cut to shot of urinating cows) and broadly played, particularly in comparison to Simmondss darker, more nuanced novel, in which the characters are less cuddly and the denouement not so tidy. Frears might have accelerated the comic pacing, but the story is a good one and events come nicely to a boil. There have been far worse literary chick-flicks. Still, Woody Allen, to name one worker in the field, would doubtlessly have provided funnier one-liners.
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