When journalist Tamara Drewe returns to her parents’ house with a new assignment – and a new nose – she sets the surrounding countryside’s male hearts aflame, breaking the picturesque tranquility and transforming the village of her youth into a swirling maelstrom of temptation, seduction, and tawdry gossip. But when a bit of silly mischief puts lives and loves at risk, Tamara Drewe must choose between getting it all and getting the one. In this fun, witty romance, director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons) perfectly captures the spirit of the beloved graphic novel.
Is there anything more idyllic than the English countryside? Perhaps not, but even the most bucolic of settings holds its dark secrets, according to Stephen Frears's lovely, offbeat Tamara Drewe. Tamara Drewe is based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, a British cartoonist who based her work on Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. There are homages, subtle and not, throughout to Hardy and his work, but even non-Hardy aficionados will enjoy Tamara Drewe and its dark, microscopic view of the gentry. The title character is played by the winsome Gemma Arterton, who as a young lass in the lovely burg of Ewedown was a bit of an ugly duckling, with a nose to give Cyrano a run for his money. But thanks to modern comforts like plastic surgery, Tamara's blossomed into a beauty and successful writer. When she returns to Ewedown, she manages to turn the entire tiny town on its ear. The cast is first rate, including Roger Allam as Nicholas, a bestselling novelist and randy old goat who cheats on his long-suffering wife, Beth (Tamsin Greig), who runs the writers' retreat that centers on Nicholas and his giant ego. Tamara attracts the attention of her childhood pal Andy (Luke Evans) and an annoying rock drummer, Ben (Dominic Cooper), as well as the distasteful Nicholas. With fawning writers descending on Ewedown, and two cheeky, bored teenagers, Jody and Casey (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie), acting as the story's Greek chorus, there are plenty of characters to keep things moving in Tamara Drewe. And it's to Frears's and the actors' credit that if none of the characters is particularly likable (except for Greig's Beth), the action is enough to keep the viewer engaged. There are laughs, cringes, and some true poignancy--and a climactic event that will touch everyone. Tamara Drewe will satisfy fans of Hardy, Frears, dark indie comedies--and those who want to stay far, far from the madding crowd. --A.T. Hurley