So, if I don’t like comedy dramas, why have half of my last eight reviews been about comedy dramas (if you include Tangled) and why do I have yet another comedy drama today? Fair question. Perhaps I’m looking for some really good comedy dramas to recommend to the many friends I have who prefer comedy dramas. If so, I should have known where to start looking - in my other home, the land that has mastered the art of comedy drama: the UK.
Tamara Drewe is a perfect example. Directed by Stephen Frears, this lighthearted drama (it’s not really fair to call it a comedy) is an eccentric yet down-to-earth tale about how life in the small Dorset village of Ewedown is shaken up when a young woman (Tamara Drewe) returns to her childhood home with a new, and much smaller, nose. It’s based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, which in turn was inspired by Far From a Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (who is mentioned regularly in the film).
But is the film really about Tamara, or is it about Beth, who runs a farm which offers a quiet retreat for writers, or Nicholas, her husband, who writes bestselling crime novels and likes to chase younger women, or Andy, the handsome farmhand who grew up in Tamara’s house and who was Tamara’s first love (while she was still known as “Beaky”), or Glen, the American academic staying at Beth’s farm while writing about Hardy, who has a crush on Beth, or, and this is my first choice, Jody, the bored fifteen-year-old girl who (with her friend Casey) likes to throw eggs at passing cars and has a huge crush on Ben, the famous drummer who falls in love with Tamara and moves in with her. Jody, with her desperate meddling, is the one who precipitates most of the action (and the tragedy) in the film.
Life in the English countryside: When Andy, who now wants to reconnect with Tamara, sees that Tamara has hopped into bed with Ben only hours after meeting him, he drives to the nearby pub to hook up in the pantry with Zoe, the barmaid, after which he complains to Zoe about Tamara’s behaviour: “She used to be so human. When did she get so shallow?” Zoe’s response: “Are you really going on about her now? Where are your manners?” Andy: “I’m sorry.” Zoe: “Bide your time.” (smiling) “You big prick.” Ahhh - this is comedy!
Tamara Drewe is not only a delightful, intelligent adult comedy drama, it is also gorgeous to watch and full of exemplary acting. Tamara is played by Gemma Arterton (known to Bond fans as Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace), who did such a great job as Alice Creed in the recent British thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed. She is very good here as well, but, as I suggested above, this is an ensemble film and all the acting is very good.
Tamara Drewe would not have made my top ten of 2010, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable and give it a solid ***+. My mug is up once again (keep in mind that, unlike film critics who do this for a living, I try to avoid watching films which are likely to get my mug pointing down). This film is not recommended, however, for those whose idea of a good comedy drama is The Hangover.