Is it just me, or did bedroom farces — a Hollywood fixture for as long as there’s been a Hollywood — lose some of their appeal when the characters began actually using their bedrooms? If Doris Day had hopped into the sack with Tony Randall or, more likely, if Rock Hudson had hopped into the sack with Tony Randall, wouldn’t that have put a damper on their pillow talk?
In today’s romantic comedies, there’s no Annette turning green when Frankie shares his surfboard with a blonde, and no Frankie freaking out when Annette smiles at a lifeguard. Movies don’t ask, “Will she, or won’t she?” Now they ask, “Did she do it with the whole team, or just with the starting lineup?”
In Tamara Drewe, the title character shares her bed with nearly all of her male co-stars … but gosh darn it, I like the movie, anyway. That’s because, at heart, the film resembles those old Doris-and-Rock romances — but with a British spin and a bit more wit.
Besides, how can anyone dislike a movie that takes place at a hotbed of glamour, vanity, and repressed lust: a “writer’s retreat”?
Into this nest of constipated curmudgeons and academic boors bursts Tamara (Gemma Arterton), a local girl drawn back to rural Ewedown after the death of her mother. Tamara, a one-time ugly duckling nicknamed “Beakie” in her school days, recently underwent rhinoplasty and is quite happy with her new nose. The local men — all of them — notice much more than Tamara’s nose. So does a visiting rock star. And so do two troublemaking teen girls (young Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie, stealing every scene they appear in).
Loosely based on a graphic novel, which in turn was inspired by Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, Tamara Drewe also apes the formula of those ’60s Hollywood comedies: Romance wants to bloom, but misunderstandings and comical obstacles (including those bratty teenage girls) conspire to keep lovers apart. Everyone behaves badly or stupidly, but we don’t care because they are all so bloody likeable. Well, most of them are. Grade: B+
Director: Stephen Frears Cast: Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Bill Camp, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, Tamsin Greig, Jessica Barden, Charlotte Christie, James Naughtie, John Bett Release: 2010
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