Starring: Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Bill Camp, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer(s): Moira Buffini, Posy Simmonds (graphic novel)
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Original Score: Alexandre Desplat
Running Time: 111 Mins.
A comedy by Stephen Frears, really a comedy? If Tamara Drewe is predominantly a comedy I couldn’t find more than 2 titters in between the lazy and rather dull plotting that consists mostly of drama focused around the title character’s love affairs. I’m fully aware that comedy is more often than not universal, an acquired taste and to each his own I say but the comedy (or attempts at) here all revolve around the tired and rather clichéd big city girl in the country kind that are aimed at us middle class Brits, something which suggests that expectations have well and truly been lowered since the likes of Four Weddings and a Funeral meaning on a comedic level Frears has failed and at a drama level he has failed even more dramatically rendering each character (caricature?) rendered dull and lifeless, quite some feat considering the capable cast at his disposal.
Gemma Arterton has proven time after time that she is both a good actress and a charming screen presence, the ultimate movie star tools, which begs the question as to why she keeps turning up in dross like this. As the central character you would expect Arterton to dominate the film in a good way but alas she seems there to simply act as a catalyst for the rest of the stock characters, which means, this being a small village set film and all, that we have the busy-body, the sleazy writer, the harried house-wife, the hunky handyman and the inevitable fish-out-of-water rocker!
This kind of character roster is not a precursor for a dull film, quite the opposite, it could all add up for a fun romp, clichéd maybe but funny none-the-less. As it is Frears seems unsure what to do with the strange source material (a graphic novel that appeared in episodes in The Guardian), maybe this is why the characters are so broadly and lifelessly drawn with only Dominic Cooper apparently “getting” the tone that the whole production should have been pitched at. Plot wise the episodic structure shines through, there is little doubt that much like Frear’s last big release (The Queen) Tamara Drewe would be much better at home with a Sunday night slot though even that would likely prove too lively for the bereft run of non-activity.
Not a big fan of the British film scene as a whole, one which largely churns out kitchen sink (Mike Leigh) style dramas or fumbling Brit-coms that used to star Hugh Grant but thankfully seemed to have dried up in favour of something a great deal more witty (thank you Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright!). Tamara Drewe, on the basis of the trailer, want to reach for Richard Curtis heyday but as it is the director has other ideas using the basic point and shoot method to catch the milieu of a fictional small country village. Tone, it would seem, was Frear’s main problem as he forgot whether he wanted to ape Curtis or something less akin to Mike Leigh and more attuned to a less raunchy Footballer’s Wives, scandal in the hedgerows if you will!
Throughout there are strange hints at a misplaced darkness and it is only then that your interest is likely going to pique, but purely because it seems so out-of-place especially in the final 10 minutes as so much happens including a tragic death unsure whether it is being played for laughs as the victim is such a scumbag, or tragedy in the face of the revelations that come out as a result. Once again a rather dull and uneasy sequence tonally all over the place and leaving the wonderful Arterton with little to do but stand by and watch, much like the previous 100 minutes.
What should be a lighthearted and fun film is reduced to a dull and lifeless one that plods around unsure what it is trying to be, and all the while a the wonderful Gemma Arterton, as Tamara Drewe, is reduced to a spectator, in that sense I’m sure she would sympathise with us!