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Tamara Drewe

Tamara Drewe

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

STEPHEN Frears may well have delivered the British feel-good hit of the summer with his adaptation of foul-mouthed, frolic-fuelled Tamara Drewe.

Based on the provocative graphic novels by Posy Simmonds, which were also inspired by Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd, Frears’ crowd-pleaser offers an acerbic, yet heartfelt, look at the crueller side of celebrity, as well as repressed emotion, love and philandering.

It boasts a cracking British cast at the top of their game, plenty of sun drenched vistas of the beautiful Dorset countryside and the skimpiest pair of denim hot-pants you’re likely to see in a long, long time!

The plot follows former ugly duckling Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) as she returns to her old village as a sexy bombshell with a view to repairing the cottage where she was raised and selling it for a profit.

But where once she was ignored and even pilloried for an over-side nose, Tamara finds herself coveted by not one but three men: Luke Evans’ beefcake farm-hand, Dominic Cooper’s rowdy rocker and Roger Allam’s married but womanising crime novelist.

Watching from the sidelines, meanwhile, are Allam’s put-upon wife (Tamsin Greig), the current incumbents of Allam’s writer’s retreat – including frustrated and love-lorn American (Glen McCreavy) – and two mischievous schoolgirls (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie) who have their own part to play in how events eventually unfold.

Frears’ film may not be to everyone’s taste given its filthy sense of humour, profanity-laden schoolgirls and moral ambiguity – but such ‘criticisms’ only make it more fun.

Moira Buffini’s screenplay, which stays as faithful as possible to Simmonds’ source text, is as provocative as it is astute, offering some telling insights into the world of celebrity culture and obsession, vanity and people’s ability to hurt each other emotionally.

But by keeping things light throughout, Frears also manages to maintain a breezy sensibility that somehow masks the film’s most shocking elements (notably, a cow trampling scene).

As a result, he also draws excellent performances from just about every single member of his cast. Arterton, stunning as ever, builds upon an ever increasing reputation for feisty female leads, while also demonstrating an inner vulnerability that’s deeply alluring, while Allam is a riot as the philandering writer ripe for a grisly comeuppance.

Greig, too, shines as Allam’s long-suffering wife, lending the film it’s true heart and soul, while McCreavy is also good value as the US writer vying for Greig’s affections.

If Cooper and Evans are reduced to slightly more eye-candy roles, they perform them with gusto, while Barden and Christie provide a wicked little double act as the naughty schoolgirls intent on ruining everyone’s fun.

Needless to say, Frears’ film doesn’t pretend to be too deep or meaningful, and owes a lot more to Simmonds than it does Hardy, but it exists to entertain and does so in spades. It’s a refreshing countryside romp that deserves to find a wide audience.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 115mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 28, 2011