Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: 'Tamara Drewe'
If you're looking for a light diversion from all the weighty films wearing their importance like some sort of irritating Army pea coat, consider catching "Tamara Drewe" — a lovely bit of British whimsy from director Stephen Frears — before it slips out of sight.
Based on the popular graphic novel by Posy Simmonds that’s been charming British folks for years, the story, adapted for the screen by Moira Buffini, is nothing like you’d expect from a "graphic novel." There are no capes and no tights, and the closest "Tamara" comes to an action scene is a handful of dairy cows on the run.
The film stars Gemma Arterton as Tamara, a big-city writing success who's come back to the lush West Country village where her family had a country home to sort out her affairs. The charming estate that her recently deceased mum has left her turns out to be the least of her concerns.
There's a nearby writers colony run by Nicholas (Roger Allam) — a successful, philandering mystery novelist she fancied as a teen — and his tired-of-being-long-suffering wife, Beth (Tamsin Greig). There are the hunky handyman Andy (Luke Evans) and the rock star Ben (Dominic Cooper) vying for her affection, and an assortment of other quirky characters that may not make Tamara’s life any easier but certainly contribute more than a few stories to the column she writes about her life.
And writers being writers, there are all sorts of egocentric intrigues unfolding at the colony, not to mention the way blood pressures rise every time Tamara drops by in a tank top and short shorts. Especially fun is the sniping debate on art versus commerce between Nicholas, whose mystery novels have proved quite profitable over the years, and Glen (an excellent Bill Camp), an academic whose examination of Thomas Hardy seems to be in a perpetual state of hold. It's a nod to Simmonds' inspiration, Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd."
Frears has given the film a breezy tone that suits “Tamara Drewe” and Arterton well, turning this comedy of manners into a delightful way to spend tea time.
— Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic
Photo: Luke Evans and Gemma Arterton in "Tamara Drewe." Credit: Peter Mountain / Sony Pictures Classics.