'Tamara Drewe' is sassy, sexy and smart, unlike many romantic comedies

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.

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.