A Review Of The Dreadful TAMARA DREWE

TAMARA DREWE (Dir. Stephen Frears, 2010)

I was surprised to see the credit “Based on the graphic novel” on the screen at the beginning of this British comedy clunker.

It seems every other movie this year was based on a graphic novel!

Nothing wrong with that I suppose, just unexpected with this type of Thomas Hardy-ish material which concerns a writer’s retreat setting in a quaint English village captured in the ever lasting golden hour.

In a tale told in seasons, aspiring authors congregate at the home of a bestselling writer (Roger Allam) and his hosting wife (Tamsin Greig) who has long learned to look the other way to deal with her husband’s affairs.

Allam is always pompously pontificating about his supposed literary talent mostly to a struggling neurotic writer played by a buffoonish Bill Camp.

Returning to the town for the first time since her nose-job, Gemma Arterton, as the title character, appears in skimpy cut-offs and red tank top and every man in sight swoons.

This includes Luke Evans as the gardener/handyman who had a fling with Artenton when they were teens we’re told in a racy flashback.

Artenton is a journalist covering a punk pop band named Swipe who break up after a row on stage in which the drummer (Dominic Cooper) is outraged over the coupling of 2 his band-mates particularly since one had been his girlfriend.

To Evan’s chagrin Cooper and Artenton quickly couple up themselves, all the while a couple of hiding chatty schoolgirls (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie) watch it all smitten themselves with Cooper.

Allam gets into the game by bedding Arterton, Camp secretly pines for Grieg who he uses as a muse, and the schoolgirls cause trouble with a naughty email so there’s endless foolish shenanigans at every turn.

The film builds to a tragic last third, hints of which are dropped here and there throughout, but once it’s upon us its effect is mind-numbingly banal.

For all its energy and colorful imagery, “Tamara Drewe” never gels. It’s a completely charmless and painfully unfunny farce. Every attempt at wit falls flat and I could never deduce what the point of it all was.

No insights into restless writer’s mindsets or hearts – it’s all just misplaced vanity.

It also doesn’t help that the characters are all unlikable especially Allam’s who is just a transparent caricature of a womanizing cad.

The film doesn’t seem to be on anybody’s side so there’s nobody to care about. Despite the richness of the countryside and Frear’s ace sense of staging, its ultra-smarmy tone sabotages the entire production.

I can only hope that the graphic novel (and still going comic strip in the Guardian) by Posy Simmonds is more worthwhile than this dreadful tripe.

More later…

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