Tamara Drewe: Stephen Frears Makes Hay at a Writers’ Colony

Comely, independent, willful young lass returns to collect family inheritance in rural England, drives the local men wild, and inadvertently precipitates a catastrophe before nature finally takes its course. As directed by old pro Stephen Frears from Posy Simmonds' excellent graphic novel, Tamara Drewe is an ensemble affair, akin to a weekend-party comedy. The country house is a working writers' retreat owned by a smugly successful, womanizing hack (Roger Allam). Notable residents include an academic nebbish (Bill Camp) and the farm's hunky handyman (Luke Evans). The eponymous heroine, formerly burdened with a world-class honker, makes her triumphant, nose-jobbed reappearance in the near-perfect form of Bond girl Gemma Arterton. The guys are smitten from the moment she bounds over the fence in tank top and cutoffs, although she confounds them by taking up with a sullen rock star on sabbatical (Dominic Cooper). Despite the evident pleasure that this adventurous, super-confident creature takes in her newly acquired powers, her anatomy is still her destiny: Tamara's dealings with men are as consistently unfortunate as those of her less-attractive sisters, the hack's matronly wife and the rocker's adolescent admirers. Tamara Drewe is self-consciously rustic (cut to shot of urinating cows) and broadly played, particularly in comparison to Simmonds' darker, more nuanced novel. But the story is a good one, and events come nicely to boil. There have been far worse literary chick flicks.

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