Friday, October 8, 2010

Movie with Abe: Tamara Drewe

Tamara Drewe
Directed by Stephen Frears
Released October 8, 2010

While its title would indicate otherwise, it’s actually somewhat difficult to pinpoint one sole protagonist of this story. There is the eternally faithful wife who provides moral and editorial support for her ever-philandering writer husband. There is the talkative American journalist attending a writer’s retreat in England. There is the newly attractive neighbor who returns to her parents’ home and jilts the caretaker who once rebuffed her before she got a nose job in favor of the airheaded celebrity rocker she interviews. And then there are the two hometown girls so bored and obsessed with the rocker that they spend most of their time stalking him and dreaming of ways to ruin his new girlfriend’s life.

The title, as it turns out, might be appropriate, since it’s the arrival of the beautiful Tamara Drewe to a quiet, peaceful countryside that sets most of the film’s plotlines in motion. Drewe’s presence makes pompous author Nicholas Hardiment think of little else other than lying in bed beside her. It gives musician Ben Sergeant a reason to abandon city life and caretaker Andy Cobb someone to lust after as he sees another man steal her away. And it gives bored teens Jody and Casey something to do with their lives other than throw eggs at the cars of unsuspecting drivers unlucky enough to pass through their town. And then there’s Tamara herself, whose allure shouldn’t be lost on any viewer.

The casting in “Tamara Drewe” is absolutely brilliant, and a large part of what makes it work. Gemma Arterton, last seen kidnapped for most of “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” is charming and seductive as Tamara, yet not quite likeable enough to garner too much sympathy. Roger Allam is purposefully and fantastically over-the-top as the self-obsessed Nicholas, and it’s a bold and enjoyable performance. “Mamma Mia” heartthrob Dominic Cooper lets himself go as Ben, in the most entertaining way, and James McAvoy lookalike Luke Evans is entirely endearing as the strong-willed Andy. Tamsin Greig is fierce and terrific as long-suffering wife Beth Hardiment, and it’s hard not to feel compassion for her. The real revelation is Jessica Barden, who joins equally talented young actress Charlotte Christie as the more excitable and foul-mouthed of the two young prep school girls who lust after Ben.

The film, at times, feels very much like a Coen Brothers production, finding its characters in miserable, comic situations that really aren’t all that funny when pondered extensively. Bizarre happenings occur for no reason, and the characters are forced to deal with events as they’ve fallen. The film seems to shift in tone to a far more dramatic voice as it reaches its conclusion, and its ending, while not necessarily satisfying, feels wholly appropriate to the relatively offbeat and marvelously interesting film that leads up to it.



Richter Scale said...

I just saw this film a couple of days ago (it came out here in Jerusalem this weekend) and I also found it quite charming. for some reason it's getting a lot of criticism from people on the other sites I visit. Just one thing though, you got the girls backwards. Jessica Barden plays Jody (the more obsessed and foul-moputhed of the two) while Charlotte Christie plays Casey, the one who is not always sure she wants to do what she's doing.

Movies with Abe said...

My mistake. IMDB was less than helpful. Thanks for the correction. Glad that you got a chance to see it, and hope you're enjoying Jerusalem!