Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Review : Tamara Drewe

Like an episode of Midsomer Murders or Rosemary & Thyme written by a pack of unruly gremlins, Stephen Frears' wonderfully satirical and subversive comedy takes a viciously mischievous swipe at bourgeois complacencies and pretensions. Based on Posy Simmonds' comic strip of the same, Tamara Drewe offers a razor sharp and often impulsively violent picture of rural dysfunction and dissatisfaction.

Gemma Arterton plays Tamara, a successful columnist at The Independent and former ugly duckling who returns to her home village of Ewedown to sell her mother's house. Her new rhinoplasty and tiny hotpants soon set tongues wagging and turn the heads of everyone from former beau Andy (Luke Evans) to local celebrity and crime fiction writer Nicholas Hardiment (a devilishly slimy Roger Allam), who alongside his long-suffering wife Beth (Tamsin Grieg) runs a writer's retreat at their home.

Her arrival provides an injection of gossip and excitement to the close-knit community, and everyone's eyes are closely trained on Tamara, whose early escape and swan-like return represents something different to each of the villagers. In sleazy lothario Hardiment's case it's an opportunity to renew and possibly even succeed in an earlier flirtation, and for the two bored teenage girls (Charlotte Christie and a film-stealing Jessica Barden) who comment on the unfolding story like an asbo-baiting Greek chorus, a vision of untold possibilities and celebrity beyond the village boundaries.

It's musician Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper) however that immediately wins her affections. Tamara interviews him for the newspaper and soon begins an affair that is quick to incur the wrath of young Jody, whose obsessive fandom soon declares itself in various acts of lovesick sabotage.

Stephen Frears has always been a director to unearth the skeletons from the outwardly gleaming closets, from the inter-racial love affair in My Beautiful Laundrette and the bitter power plays at work in Dangerous Liaisons, to the underground organ dealing in Dirty Pretty Things. Everyone in this film too has their emotional demons to face, hidden away behind a peculiarly English facade of repression and self-denial. It's most clearly shown in Tamsin Grieg's brilliantly subtle turn as a kind of mother figure to the visiting writers, constantly pottering about with her cakes and cleaning, keenly aware of her husband's indiscretions yet unable to find any kind of suitable emotional release.

The rest of the performances are also remarkably well-judged, and the vibrantly coloured photography and production design lend an air of pastoral jollity that makes the ever-darkening tone that much more subversive and unexpected.

Tamara Drewe - 2010 - 111 mins - Dir : Stephen Frears

No comments:

Post a Comment