Tamara Drewe (2010)

A girl with a big nose leaves her small town. She gets a nose job. comes back and has every male lust over her. End of story. Well, not actually. That’s really just the beginning, and the girl I mentioned isn’t the only lead character, even if she does lend her name to the title of the film. Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) is this girl, and after she decides to come back to the town of Ewedown, she begins to stir up trouble.

There’s a writers’ retreat in-town at the moment, hosted by Nicholas (Roger Allam) and Beth (Tamsin Greig). Inside the retreat are a bunch of other people, although they serve just to sit and chat about their novels. Only Glen (Bill Camp), the one American in the group of writers on holiday gets characterization. Nicholas begins the film meeting a younger woman, something his wife finds out about, but he dumps his mistress and they get along well together for most of the film afterward.

Working at the farm is Andy (Luke Evans), a man who, after some failed investments, became poor and only because of the generosity of Beth is he able to make a living. He and Tamara used to be quite close, but he broke up with her and now they aren’t terribly friendly with one another. The actual plot begins when a rock band comes to town, breaks up, and Tamara ends up with the drummer (Dominic Cooper), who also writes the songs and basically spends his time bragging about how awesome he is and complaining about the pair being stuck in a small town. There are also a couple of foul-mouthed teenage girls who serve the purpose just to cause trouble while also chasing after the drummer.

What results from this scenario are a bunch of situations involving seduction, lust, backstabbing, lies and surprisingly intelligent conversations. Despite one of the writers claiming that he isn’t an intellectual, you’d be hard-pressed to find people in movies who are as smart as all of these people are. But, alas, their weakness is in relationships. They don’t quite understand how these human interactions work, and as a result, they have to learn how to treat one another and find a way to live together all while finding out that everyone else is just as inept as they are.

The interplay between the characters is what keeps Tamara Drewe a strong film. Watching these smart people interact is entertaining, and since many of the conversations have humorous results and dialogue, you are constantly being engaged and stimulated. Times that would be mundane in many films are fun in this one because of the characters and the writing.

However, the eponymous character is by far the least interesting, which is unfortunate. Despite driving most of the plot — many of the events of the film wouldn’t occur if she hadn’t decided to come back to this small town — her character is never established properly. At times, she’s promiscuous, and yet, at other times, she’s sweet and tries to come across as the victim. Other times, she’s the villain, causing the other characters problems, while other times yet, she’s forced into the background.

Sometimes, I’m okay with the protagonist not being likable, because in these situations, you’re still feeling something when they come on the screen. In this case, Tamara is so inconsistent that it’s almost impossible to feel anything. You start with pity, move onto rage, and eventually it becomes indifference because you’re sure that the writer decided to make the character always act in accordance to what could cause further plot trouble, instead of staying true to what’s been established in previous sequences.

The other characters, however, all stay consistent, and as a result, I found myself enjoying their presence more than Tamara’s, even if they weren’t good people. The cheating husband is, well, just that, while his wife is far too nice for her own good. Even the two teenagers, who we cut to almost at random whenever director Stephen Frears begins to bore us, were characters I began to like. At least, I liked them because they brought the funniest moments to the film, portraying stereotypical teenage girls.

When Tamara Drewe doesn’t work, it’s when it tries to do too much. There are parts when characters are involved with too many storylines, forcing other characters to disappear completely for a while. Sometimes, they’ll leave town only to come back for almost no reason. At least their disappearance is explained, but forcing them to leave doesn’t benefit them at all as a character, or in helping the audience get to know them.

Regardless, I can’t say I was ever bored with Tamara Drewe. Thanks to the great deal of interesting, smart and insightful characters, I was always stimulated in some way. Even though the eponymous character left me with indifference, the other people make up for that. They’re full of life, stay consistent and because they’re all quite intelligent, they say things that are worth listening to. It’s not an amazing film, and unless you like British humor a great deal, it’s not necessarily worth your time, but I can’t deny that I enjoyed my time spent with it.

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