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Stephen Frears
Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Bill Camp, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, Tamsin Greig, Jessica Barden
Writing Credits:
Moira Buffini, Posy Simmonds (graphic novel)

Based on Posy Simmonds beloved graphic novel of the same name (which was itself inspired by Thomas Hardy's classic "Far From the Madding Crowd"), this wittily modern take on the romantic English pastorale is a far cry from Hardy's Wessex. Tamara Drewe's present day English countryside - stocked with pompous writers, rich weekenders, bourgeois bohemians, a horny rock star and a great many Buff Orpington chickens and Belted Galloway cows - is a much funnier place. When Tamara Drewe sashays back to the bucolic village of her youth, life for the locals is thrown tail over teakettle. Tamara, once an ugly duckling, has been transformed into a devastating beauty (with the help from plastic surgery). As infatuaitions jealousies, love affairs and career ambitions collide among the inhabitants of the neighboring farmsteads, Tamara sets a contemporary comedy of manners into play using the oldest magic in the book sex appeal.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$18.604 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$554.918 thousand.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 2/1/2011

• Audio Commentary with Actors Gemma Arterton and Luke Evans
• “The Making of Tamara Drewe” Featurette
• “Reconstructing Tamara Drewe” Featurette
• Trailer
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Tamara Drewe (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 9, 2011)

2010’s Tamara Drewe threatens to wear out the keys used to type “based on”. That’s because the film comes based on a comic strip itself based on the novel Far From the Madding Crowd. Who says there’s no originality in cinema anymore?

Novelist Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) runs a rural writer’s retreat with his wife Beth (Tamsin Greig). Their life takes a turn when she finds out about his affair with Nadia (Zahra Ahmadi). When forced to choose, Nicholas claims to end things with Nadia and recommit himself to Beth.

Unfortunately for him, a new temptation arrives via Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton). She grew up in the area and returns to sell her late mother’s farm, a property that abuts the spot owned by the Hardiments. This sets various interpersonal concerns into motion, mainly because so many locals find Tamara – and her notorious nose job – so appealing. Nicholas clearly feels drawn to stray from his new recommitment to Beth, and local handyman Andy (Luke Evans) remembers dalliances he had with her a decade earlier. In addition, Tamara hooks up to rock drummer Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper), a relationship that stirs jealousy in teen fan Jody (Jessica Barden). All these factors come together to churn relationships and drama.

Films adapted from books – even graphic novels – almost inevitably need to abbreviate their source material. When done well, a viewer unfamiliar with the original won’t recognize that omissions occurred. When done less successfully, the same viewer will feel like something’s missing.

That impression often came to me as I watched Drewe. I possess no familiarity at all with the original comics, but I have to imagine they go into much more depth than what the movie manages to accomplish. It feels like a rough sketch instead of a full portrait.

This affects all aspects of the narrative, though it especially impacts on the characters. Drewe commits screen time to a fair number of participants. Her name may be on the title, but Tamara never really feels like the “main character”. Actually, the movie doesn’t even seem to have one particular person on whom we concentrate; Tamara gets the credit because the plot revolves around her, but she’s not a truly dominant character.

She’s also not a very well-drawn personality, and that same issue affects all of the roles. We never feel like we get to know any of them well, so they remain ill-defined and one-dimensional. This makes it difficult to invest in their stories; since we don’t embrace their tales, we don’t care what happens to them.

Because of this, Drewe tends to flit from one character/plot thread to another without much logic. Actually, it flows fairly well at the start, but the more complex the relationships become, the less coherent the movie feels. It’s essentially a hodgepodge of story ideas without a strong arc to make them come together.

This leaves us with a character-based film devoid of strong characters. Oddly, a secondary relationship between Beth and struggling writer Glen (Bill Camp) turns into the one with the most believable, natural arc. The others come across as forced and unconvincing. Sure, we fully accept that so many guys long for Tamara – Arterton is a genuine beauty – but the manner in which we follow their interactions with her lacks depth. These elements simply lack the screen time to be fleshed out in a satisfying way.

None of this makes Drewe a bad movie, but it’s a generally ineffective one. If given more room to breathe, it could create an intriguing character drama. As composed, however, it’s just too scattershot and abbreviated to fly.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Tamara Drewe appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For SD-DVD, the picture looked fine.

Sharpness came across reasonably well. Some wider shots tended to be a bit iffy, but those failed to create prominent distractions. Overall, the image was acceptably accurate. No issues with jagged edges occurred, but I saw some light shimmering and edge haloes. Source flaws caused no concerns, as the flick remained clean and fresh at all times.

Drewe went with a stylized palette. Most of the flick oriented toward a golden tint, though the tones became chillier as the movie progressed. Within the visual constraints, the hues were fine, though they weren’t especially memorable. Blacks seemed deep and firm, while shadows provided nice clarity and delineation. For the most part, this was a positive presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Tamara Drewe worked fine for the material. The soundscape didn’t provide a lot of pizzazz. Music demonstrated nice stereo imaging, and various scenes added a nice sense of place. This was a forward-oriented mix that used the surrounds in a moderate manner to reinforce the sound of different settings – a rock festival being the most prominent - and it did that well.

Audio quality seemed satisfying. Speech always appeared warm and natural, with no edginess or other issues. Music was full, as the score showed solid reproduction. Effects also boasted good clarity and definition, though they didn’t exactly push the auditory envelope. Overall, the soundtrack was perfectly acceptable for this sort of flick.

We open the extras with an audio commentary from actors Gemma Arterton and Luke Evans. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific look at cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, comparisons with the graphic novel, and general anecdotes from the shoot.

Pleasant but not remarkable, this is a genial chat. Arterton does most of the heavy lifting, especially in terms of notes about the movie’s inspirations; she provides some nice notes about aspects of the graphic novel and Far From the Madding Crowd, on which the Drewe comic was based. She and Evans interact in a likable manner, but the track simply lacks enough solid info to make it better than average. Still, I’ve heard worse, so this is a decent enough listen.

Two featurettes follow. The Making of Tamara Drewe runs 13 minutes, 44 seconds and offers notes from Arterton, Evans, director Stephen Frears, producer Alison Owen, screenwriter Moira Buffini, costume designer Consolata Boyle, and actors Roger Allam, Dominic Cooper, Bill Camp, and Tamsin Greig. The show discusses the original comic and its adaptation, cast, characters and performances, costumes, and Frears’ impact on the production.

Don’t expect more than the usual promotional blather here. Actually, “blather” is a little harsh, as the participants provide concise thoughts about the movie, its story and characters. However, we don’t really learn much about the production; a few decent notes emerge, but not much of substance.

Reconstructing Tamara Drewe goes for 10 minutes, 21 seconds and features Frears, Arterton, Evans, and Cooper. The piece compares the movie to the original comic, and that makes it reasonably enjoyable. We get to see different images from the strip and learn a little about their adaptation. It never becomes a fascinating show, but it has some good moments.

A few ads launch the disc. We get promos for A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop, Get Low, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Barney’s Version and Made in Dagenham. The disc also includes a trailer for Drewe.

At its core, Tamara Drewe has potential, but the result on screen doesn’t really work. The movie appears to condense its source material so severely that it feels rushed and thin. The DVD presents reasonably good picture and audio as well as mediocre supplements. While not a bad film, Drewe never comes together in a satisfying manner.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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