By Marc Glassman
Stephen Frears, director
Moira Buffini, script based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds
Starring: Gemma Arterton (Tamara Drewe), Luke Evans (Andy Cobb), Dominic Cooper (Ben Sergeant), Roger Allan (Nicholas Hardiment), Tamsin Greig (Beth Hardiment)
Set in England’s beautiful southwest district, immortalized as “Wessex” by Thomas Hardy in a string of novels including Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tamara Drewe is a wry, sexy and quite modern comedy. The titular character, Ms. Drewe, had flown the coop back in her late teens, having been saddled by the miserable nickname of “Beaky.” A decade later, having shorn some weight around her mid-riff and nose, Tamara Drewe returns to her home, ready to upset the local hypocrites with her liberated London-approved life-style.
One look at Ms. Drewe in her cut offs and tight fitting shirt and most of the male population of the tiny Dorset–oops Wessex–village are ready to howl at the moon. At least figuratively or metaphorically, since the majority of them are musicians or writers–or so it seems.
Middle-aged Nicholas Hardiment, Tamara’s next door neighbour and a best selling thriller book writer is willing to chuck his prosperous “writer’s colony” run by wife Beth, if Ms. Drewe would take his hand–or, indeed, any part of his aging body. Andy Cobb, the handsome if moody caretaker of the colony and a true-blue Wessex lad, also tries to woo Ms. Drewe, whom he turned over in her “Beaky” days.
But it’s cool, inarticulate rock star Ben who succeeds in bedding Ms. Drewe, while she–an intrepid journalist–gets the story of the break-up of the lad’s band. Months pass until the intervention of two naughty teenaged girls destroys Ms. Drewe’s life love. Sending out poisonous emails, the girls create havoc, causing Ben to leave and–of all people–Nicholas to show up, courting Ms. Drewe. The path of true romance becomes more twisted, filled with brambles and thistles, until the right man emerges to make Tamara a happy young woman.
Wonderfully satirical, this film is directed at a brisk pace by veteran British director Stephen Frears, whose past credits include The Queen, My Beautiful Launderette, Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. It’s an impressive list though you’d be hard pressed to call Frears an “auteur.” His great skill, in his own estimation, is to work with writers and actors to get the past out of every script.
Here, the scenario by the aptly named Ms. Buffini is resolutely comic, relishing in the twists and turns in a densely plotted film. Drawing on an unholy pairing of a graphic novel with the often dour, if poetic, books of Mr. Hardy, Tamara Drewe is an odd and successful romp. Rarely has a film been so literary. Or so sexy.
Though some will feel that Tamara Drewe is too eccentric and, on occasion, tragic, this viewer was entranced from the get-go. You’ll enjoy it.