Tamara Drewe is an amusing British sex/romantic comedy that was little noticed in theaters. Too bad. The film is a bit uneven, but it shows what the American version of the genre sorely lacks: sass and panache.
Its title-character heroine, a newspaper columnist played by Gemma Arterton, returns to her hometown, a sleepy English village, after having a nose job. The place has become a writers' retreat. The townsmen finally can look past her proboscis to those tight, high-cut shorts she so tantalizingly fills out.
A farmhand (Luke Evans) knew of Tamara's delights when she was young, and he is anxious to renew her acquaintance. But she is more worldly now. A rock star (Dominic Cooper) pursues her. And she has unfinished business with a pretentious, leering mystery writer (Roger Allam) who once rejected her overtures.
Never mind his long-suffering wife, Beth (Tamsin Greig from Showtime's comedy Episodes). Beth, too, is the object of desire — of a dour American academic (Bill Camp) drowning in his latest project, a book about Thomas Hardy. The novelist — whom we learn in the film was a randy fellow — is a bit of an inside joke. The film is based on a Posy Simmonds graphic novel, which is loosely based on a fanciful adaptation of Hardy's 1874 novel Far From the Madding Crowd.
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The rock star's arrival stirs more fun. Two schoolgirls (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie), out of boredom and lust, create their own mischief, like fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream, only in a twisted high-tech way.
Tamara Drewe has some strange, even dark, turns for a comedy, but its willingness to be unexpected is part of what keeps it interesting. And it's always smart — never insulting your intelligence — unlike two American romantic comedies out this week, Life as We Know It and The Romantics.
Tamara Drewe retails for $28.95 or $38.96 Blu-ray.