Tamara Drewe

06/09/2010

Duncan Heath popped down Broadway to see Stephen Frears' latest film, Tamara Drewe


 
 Gemma Arterton as Tamara Drewe... in Tamara Drewe
“Writers are liars.”
 
And with an introductory sentence like that, you could just ignore the rest of what is here to be read really, but would you be missing out? True, the job entails linking together strings of pretty witty words to entertain and dazzle. But is it the pretty that people read for or the truth behind the façade?
 
Tamara Drewe is a comic book adaption by Stephen Frears of a Posy Simmonds' Guardian strip. Much as she had done previously with taking Gemma Bovary from the pages of Flaubert, this tale takes Hardy's Far From The Maddening Crowd as its inspiration and loose structure. So no capes and long-johns or gunfights here – but plenty of twists and turns ahead.
 
Glen (Bill Camp) is an American writer. Underpaid, overstressed and over here, at a sleepy Dorset countryside farm writing retreat so that he can finish his Thomas Hardy book. When local girl-done-good columnist Tamara (Gemma Arterton) returns from the city, all short-shorts and 'plastic fantastic', Glen is whipped up in a whirlwind of unexpected change that ruffles more than chicken feathers and uncovers past misdemeanours, new affairs and the locals and writers of Ewedown soon have more inspirational material on their hands than they may need...
 
Tamsin Grieg (centre) in Tamara Drewe
British as all out, the BBC production in this film shows. From the 'sneaky xylophone of deceit' soundtrack to the set dressing and colour palettes, the film has a slickness that belies its rustic setting, but never brings one out of the moment. The farm itself looks plucked straight from the pages of the graphic novel. Also, it benefits from some great casting – Roger Allam greasily shines as Nicolas Hardiment, in a fantastically smug and smarmy tour-de-force of charming unlikeableness. Tamsin Greig is hardly the tubby matron Beth appears as in print, but on screen gives an amazingly realised portrayal of naivety and weathered sadness that whilst tugging at the heart strings still produces wry smiles. Finally, Jody's fourteen year old pin-up and Smash Hits stickers 'wacky wall' to Ben from Swipe seemed almost as crazed and concentratedly intense as her performance. Jessica Barden hits the unrequited 'he-WILL-be mine' lovestruck schoolgirl note on full power chord, and her bored teen bravado and stares certainly steal the latter half of the film. With so many star turns and intrigues, there's a lot packed into this one.
 
At the end of it all, Nicolas may be right. Writers may well be liars (well, some of 'em anyway), but the truth is – Tamara Drewe's a good film.

Tamara Drewe will be showing at Broadway from Friday 10 September with a special preview screening with a Q&A with Posy Simmonds and Stephen Frears.

Official Tamara Drewe website

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