Directed by: Stephen Frears
Produced by: Alison Owen; Tracey Seaward; Paul Trijbits
Screenplay by: Moira Buffini; Based on Tamara Drewe by
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Editing by: Mick Audsley
Release date(s): 20 September 2010 (UK)
Running time 111 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Stephen Frears is one director you cannot put in a box and label him. He has so far directed 21 odd movies and no two films are similar. There have been hits and misses in his career. His films have flopped (Cheri in 2008, for example). He was nominated for best director Oscar (latest, for The Queen). But each of his films are unique. For example, he may have tackled gay themes in two of his film — My Beautiful Laundrette and ‘Prick Up Your Ears’, but both movies are different in their backgrounds and the tone, the way both the films are conceived.
Therefore, when you sit down to watch Frears’ latest Tamara Drewe, you expect the film to be different than whatever he has done so far. Not entirely. Personally, I liked the film. But, I cannot go gung-ho about it, the way I did with Pretty Dirty Things (It’s still my favourite Frears film, along with My Beautiful Laundrette), or High Fidelity, or The Grifters.
In one sense, in Tamara, Frears is in the High Fidelity zone. But the material he handles this time doesn’t have the panache of Nick Hornby’s storytelling. And, unlike the previous film, here the focus shifts from one group of characters to another so frequently that the audience do not find time and scope to invest in the characters. That said, the understated ‘British humour’ and study of human foible in the film are not without their rewards.
Based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, which was first published as newspaper comic strip, the film is based on a fictional village in the Thomas Hardy county of Dorset, where acclaimed crime novelist Nicholas Hardiment and his wife Beth runs a writers retreat. It’s an out of the world hell-hole where nothing happens, as two bored teen-age school girls claim. But it’s all is about to change at the arrival of Tamara Drewe, once an ugly duckling with a huge nose from the village, now, a beautiful Gemma Arterton with a nose job done, who wants to renovate her dead mother’s place to sell it.
Her arrival throws the placid routine of the village off gear, and we are introduced to a host of characters whose life will change in the course of a chain reaction triggered off by the arrival of Tamara, and her new-found boyfriend, drummer of a just broken up band, Ben, whom one of the bored teen school girls worship.
Then there are others, Ben (Luke Evans, who reminds me strongly of James McAvoy), Tamara’s first lover in her teen ugly days, Glen, an American working on a book on Thomas Hardy, who slowly falls for Beth, the crime novelists harassed wife, and the crime novelists, a serial adulterer and once Tamara’s object of affection, and the two school girls.
Season changes, and Tamara leaves for London with her now fiancé, Ben, when the two school girls enter her house and sends an email. What follows are some comedy of errors, some more adultery, and some fun. It’s all there. But the plot moves in a slow pace, and in the end you don’t really care about anyone, not even Tamara.
This despite Gemma Arterton playing Tamara as a intelligent woman playing a bimbo, but not a bimbo at any rate. She is more than the sexy siren avatar expected of her, and she can act, but probably not like Tamsin Greig, who plays Beth as silly and sympathetic at the same time.
Tamara Drewe may not be one of the best Stephen Frears films, but it’s far better than all those formula comedies that open every other week. Among other things, the makes its writers look like writers.
Films directed by Stephen Frears
Bloody Kids (1979)
The Hit (1984)
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
Prick Up Your Ears (1987)
Mr Jolly Lives Next Door (1987)
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987)
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
The Grifters (1990)
The Snapper (1993)
Mary Reilly (1996)
The Van (1996)
The Hi-Lo Country (1998)
High Fidelity (2000)
Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
Mrs Henderson Presents (2005)
The Queen (2006)
Tamara Drewe (2010)