Friday, 17 September 2010

Review: Tamara Drewe (2010)

Based on the comic strip by Posy Simmonds which ran weekly in The Guardian, the film version of Tamara Drewe does feel something like a series of three-panel strips. The scenes seem to be very short, making for some fantastic vignettes, but the pace of the editing and the gentle ebb of the story makes for something of a disjointed viewing experience. That's not to say that it's not a good watch. Quite the contrary, Tamara Drewe is a funny, engaging comedy drama with an exceptional cast and some truly biting dialogue.

The film follows the goings-on around a small village where a famous crime novelist plays host to a writer's retreat in the grounds of his huge farmhouse. A young journalist, the eponymous Tamara Drewe (played with much pouting by Gemma Arterton), returns to the village to sell off her family home and ends up causing all manner of chaos (and sleeping with almost everyone in the film). Add Dominic Cooper as a superstar drummer, cows, Tamsin Grieg being fantastic, intrigue, drama, laughs and two foul-mouthed schoolgirls, and you have a film that is highly enjoyable, even if you're not quite sure why.

There is little in the way of story progression for much of the film's running time, and it's not until the last quarter of an hour that things start to gel together. I really enjoyed it, though. I think this is largely down to the cast, all of whom play their parts with a great deal of reality. There are a few moments that almost seem improvised, such is the natural flow of the cast's chemistry. The characters are nicely complicated, too. No cookie-cutter stereotypes here (despite what some reviews will tell you).

I mean, take Tamara herself for example. Throughout the film's running time, you're not really sure what to make of her. At times she's sweet, then irritating, then downright foul, and back to sweet again. Y'know, this is no bad thing, as people are like that out here in the real world, too. Luke Evans turns in a fine performance as rugged rural type Andy Cobb, without being cartoonish. He comes across as a person who has been dealt some rough hands, and is just getting on with things. It's a nice touch.

Tamara Drewe is based loosely on Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd, but you really don't need to be into your dusty old tomes to enjoy it (which is of great help to me, what with me being a pleb in the eyes of many). The subdued script and the slow pace (despite the quick scenes) has no doubt turned a lot of people off it, but as a whole, the Tamara Drewe film is well worth watching, but possibly only if you are English, of a certain age (i.e. over 25) and not expecting a rip-roaring comedy. It's a gentle film with some great ideas behind it, and it's nice to see that Gemmma Arterton has more to her arsenal than just blockbusters and James Bond. If anything, the film could have been improved by having about fifteen minutes cut out of it. Aside from that, Tamara is well worth your time.

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