After growing up in a household where the theme tune to The Archers was relatively commonplace, I have to admit there was a, faintly nostalgic, attraction to Tamara Drewe. It's strange to think of all the comic book and graphic novel adaptations I have experienced over the last few years, that a story - a reworking of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Maddening Crowd - about a pokey little British village and its eclectic inhabitants would turn out to be one of the more enjoyable ones.
Avid readers of The Guardian will no doubt be familiar with the story which follows young journalist, Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) as she returns to the village she grew up and partakes in sordid affairs and reacquainting herself with lost loves amongst other such events regularly found in most Ben Elton and Richard Curtis scripted comedies.
I've never made it a secret of my contempt for Ms Arterton, with playing bit-part roles as the damsel in distress or simply something pretty to look at on screen, I've never seen the need for her presence as an actress. However, I am man enough to admit when wrong. In her role as Tamara she was able to let loose. While appearances in Prince of Persia, Clash of the Titans and Quantum of Solace were hardly far films to judge her ability, in Tamara Drewe she was giving the opportunity to demonstrate her genuine class and wit to go with the natural beauty she brings to the big screen.
However, like most ensemble pieces, the support cast were far more captivating on screen. The main highlight being Roger Allam's portrayal of stuffy author and adulterer, Nicholas Hardiment. Despite the clever parallels to Tomas Hardy, his character managed to create this strange mixture of erratic comedic timing with detestable deviousness. His on screen chemistry with the brilliant, yet stupidly underrated Tamsin Greig made for utterly compelling viewing, especially when the love triangle with the other 'in-house writer' Glen McCreavy (Bill Camp) spills over to devastating results.
What, director, Stephen Frears demonstrated brilliantly with Tamara Drewe was this effortless ability of weaving all the characters' sub-plots together into a much larger and easily understandable storyline. Everything every character did in the film, no matter how small, had a consequence in the build up to the film's satisfying climax - which is something Ben Elton and Richard Curtis have failed to truly master in recent years.
Ultimately though the real surprise in Tamara Drewe was the amount of sincere enjoyment found on screen. It was a beautifully balanced feature from beginning to end, amusing when it needed to be, deep and thoughtful as well as being quite heated and dramatic through the film's more sobering moments. It maybe could have done was being a bit more sexy but I suppose there's only so far you can take a film set to this tranquil country setting.
Obviously it's not for everyone, and if your idea of perfect British cinema is more the works of Shane Meadows and Guy Ritchie than the likes of Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral, then best hold your cinema admission fee for another day. But if you're willing to give the film and its leading lady a chance to shine, the rewards can certainly pay dividends.
An intelligent and delightful British comedy, with a sexier twist than most to come before it. Gemma Arterton has finally put on a performance worthy of her hype. Backed by a brilliant script, classy support cast and exceptional direction from Frears, I'm surprised to say I look forward to visiting the colourful village of Ewedown again in the near future. Perfect viewing to begin the Autumnal season and make you forget of the loud, obnoxious mainly average blockbusters of this Summer's past.
See This If You Like...
Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Archers (radio)
Tamara Drewe is in cinemas everywhere from today.
Also if you've seen the film and fancy reading the comic strip, The Guardian have it all in its entirety here :: http://bit.ly/cKT0tY