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February 28, 2011 | by  | in Film |
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Tamara Drewe

Tamara Drewe opens with an extended sequence following a shirtless farmhand, played by the rugged Luke Evans, as he pounds fence posts into rolling hills while the morning sun slips into the sky. It’s an unambiguous opening—this is one of those British comedies, the pastoral comedy that only serves to pander to retired English ex-pats longing for the green and pleasant fields of the Motherland. The bucolic comedy has always triggered a misty-eyed idealism in writers, particularly in this post-Dibley world of tame middlebrow humour. Tamara Drewe tries to set itself apart from this maligned pack by having young people and lots of sex and swearing. It doesn’t work.

Tamara Drewe’s biggest flaw is its titular protagonist, a small-town girl turned big-city reporter played by the inexplicably in-vogue Gemma Arterton. Drewe’s only character trait appears to be that she’s impulsive enough to have sex with anyone, and anyone who has sex with her falls in love with her instantly (hell, even people who don’t have sex with her fall in love with her). She’s the kind of two-dimensional free spirit that would barely pass muster as the love interest in a terrible romantic comedy, let alone as the main character of a Stephen Frears film. The other characters are stock rural stereotypes as well—the put-upon house frau, the smug cultured guy, the handsome jack-of-all-trades, the teenagers bored of their country life—but at least their performers give them a modicum of life (particularly Tamsin Grieg, whose solid performance gives the film gravitas it doesn’t deserve).

It should be noted, though, that Tamara Drewe isn’t terrible. It’s hardly offensive or unpleasant to watch—it’s just boring. The story plods along in a particularly uninteresting fashion, and Frears’ usually reliable direction is foregone for Constable-lite compositions of a lot of green. Alexandre Desplat offers up a score that wouldn’t be out of place in a sub-par Tim Burton film, and anything remotely riveting in the story is undone by the “everything’s alright in the country” ending. Tamara Drewe could not be blander if it tried.

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