Monday, July 18, 2011

"Tamara Drewe" - Ugly Duckling Retold in Peculiar Thomas Hardy Tale

“I love your new hooter.”

“I’ve got a skip coming tomorrow.”

“I’m making a new scoop for my Buff Orpingtons.”

“I spent six years stone out of my box.”

“I’ve invested in a polytunnel full of ganja.”

“I simply pander to popular taste.”

“A bit brash vrooming through the village.”

“I think the word is gobshite.”

“My heartiest commiserations.”

“I’ve trod on the sponge mix.”

“… that muscle bound wastrel.”

“You low rent pedant.”

So if you think you’re reading on gibberish, you’d be wrong. But there’s no mistaking, I was almost in dire need of an Oxford dictionary to get through the verbal text of Stepehn Frear’s “Tamara Drewe”.

This is another one of those deliciously hilarious study of manners from the Brits. Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) is enjoying a gratifying homecoming in the bucolic Dorset town of Ewedown (“you-down”). Sure, this has something to do with getting rid of her dear departed mom’s property, but Tamara is coming home a gorgeous damsel after a rhinoplasty (a nose job) that radically turned her life around. These days, she is a popular tabloid columnist. Indeed, life sure comes easy for the beautiful, as a struggling writer Glen (Bill Camp) would say.

Once again, Tamara gets to renew acquaintance with the Hardiments, the long suffering, put-upon wife Beth (Tamsin Greig) and serial infidel and best-selling writer Nicholas (Roger Allam); with the still-gorgeous odds-man-cum-gardener Andy Cobb (Luke Evans); with the Hardiment’s B&B guests.

On top of that, Tamara is enjoying a sexually charged relationship with a bratty rock drummer Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper). And bored school girls Jody and Casey are hot on his heels. But what happens to Andy’s renewed interest in the now-gorgeous Tamara? They once scorched the barns in illicit rendezvous, but Tamara’s humongous nose – and his mates’ pressure - became too much to bear for the young Andy. They called her “beaky”. To add spice to the narrative broth, rocker Ben (who’s on the romantic rebound) proposes to Tamara, Then a confounding email arrives at the inbox of writer Nicholas, rocker Ben, and gardener Andy. What is going on here?

Director Stephen Frears gave us “Dangerous Liaisons”, Helen Mirren’s “The Queen” (where Mirren won Oscar Best Actress in 2006), and Brit classics “My Beautiful Laundrette” (with Daniel Day-Lewis) and “Prick Up Your Ears” (Gary Oldman). Each title as compelling as the next, but it’s hard to peg him in a particular genre. This one’s in the vein of other quirky British rom-coms like “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Full Monty”, etc. that navigate around a group of characters written in peculiar and idiosyncratic fashion.

Gemma Arterton sashays into town and its easy to understand why men fall off their seats for her attention but there’s something a bit superficial about Tamara’s character. This is a girl who openly underlines cosmetic surgery as a means to getting things (“When I was ugly, I had no problem getting taken seriously.”); a girl who, despite her affection with a guy, sleeps with another instead because he’s as beautiful as Dominic Cooper (“Mamma Mia!”, “The Duchess”, “An Education”). Moreover, it's rather an uphill battle empathizing with a protagonist who doesn't think twice about sleeping with married men - old, wrinkly, hairy and lecherous. Though based on Thomas Hardy’s dark and brooding “Far From The Madding Crowd”, this adapted Possy Simmonds' graphic novel character takes the comedic detour that tackles infidelity, pent-up infatuations, and tips on circumventing the dreaded writer’s block (“write like you’re talking to a friend”, is one).

I guess part of the fun is in deciphering the seemingly “foreign language” countenance of this inherently British movie. I always thought that when they say “hooter”, they meant “breasts”. Here, they meant “nose”. And “Buff Orpingtons” refer to a special breed of chicken. What about "wastrel"? Go get a dictionary.

Nicholas and Beth

Dominic Cooper as bratty drummer Ben Sergeant.

School girls find their Uncle Andy heartbroken.

Gemma Arterton (above and below): Gorgeous!

Gemma Arterton in her skimpy two-piece.

Luke Evans plays odds man-cum-gardener Andy.

Dominic Cooper

Director Stephen Frears


duduy said...

thanks for this one. i've been meaning to watch it for ages. granted, i didnt really pick up anything on your review :p seeing gemma atherton in a bikini is a good start. sounds more like Roxanne with role reversals though than ugly duckling. anyway, thanks again.

Cathy Pena said...


Ouch! You didn't pick up anything - at all? Zilch? Nil? Nada? Zero? Haha...

Well, it is about an ugly duckling who transforms into the proverbial "swan" who, this time, is charming the pants off her old neighbors. There's a lot of bed swapping and the wry and dry humor of the Brits. Gemma is such a lovely girl, I almost turned lezbo. ;->

duduy said...

"I almost turned lezbo. ;->"

ooooh. im pickin' up something now. :p

i exaggerate of course. you're post was pretty clear enough. i was hoping to read something different about the film apart from the ones i've already heard.

but i'm watching it anyway. any hint of a bed scene involving Gemma is good enough for me.

Cathy Pena said...


Men! And your proclivities... Loko ka!