out of Five
Running time: 111
Hugely enjoyable, frequently funny British comedy-drama with a superb script and terrific performances from a fine ensemble cast.
What's it all about?
Directed by Stephen Frears, Tamara Drewe is based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds (which was itself based on Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd) and set in the picturesque Dorset village of Ewedown. Gemma Arterton stars as London journalist Tamara Drewe who returns to Ewedown (complete with fetching nose job) to sell the house she grew up in, whereupon she unwittingly rekindles the interest of local handyman (and teenage fling) Andy Cobb (Luke Evans).
Tamara's denim hotpants-clad arrival doesn't go unnoticed by the members of a local writers' retreat-slash-farm run by long-suffering Beth Hardiment (Tamsin Greig) and her philandering, best-selling author husband Nicholas (Roger Allam) and tongues start wagging even harder when she takes up with rock star (well, drummer) Ben (Dominic Cooper). This causes both delight and seething jealousy for Ben's devoted fans (“How come she gets Ben? I've loved him since March!”), bored 15-year-olds Jody and Casey (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie) and it isn't long before their stalkerish, teenage hormone-driven 'messing' stirs up trouble.
The performances are excellent: Gemma Arterton is perfectly cast as the drop-dead gorgeous Tamara (the scene where she clambers over a stile in the denim hot-pants and a scarlet vest-top is an instant classic, up there with Cameron Diaz's first entrance in The Mask). There's also terrific support from Allam (splendidly slimy), Barden (terrifying in the way that only a hormonal teenager can be terrifying), Cooper (whose drumstick seduction of Tamara is another highlight) and Bill Camp (as visiting American author Glen, who falls for Beth), but the acting honours are roundly stolen by Tamsin Greig, who's a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actress nomination come BAFTA-time.
The sharply written script is extremely funny, whether it's Allam's amusingly sweary outbursts (“Cock pie!”) or a sly twist on familiar scenes, such as having argument between Beth and Roger overheard by a clearly embarrassed Glen on the toilet. In addition, Ben Davis' camerawork makes strong use of the stunning Dorset landscapes and there's a great score by Alexandre Desplat.
This is a hugely enjoyable, well made and brilliantly acted comedy-drama that's easily one of the best British films of the year. Highly recommended.
Tamara Drewe (15)