Gemma Arterton is an actress to watch: much vaunted for her role in the gritty The Disappearance of Alice Creed, she arguably needs a lead role in a commercially successful mainstream film, in order to further cement her future as an actress. Tamara Drewe, the latest offering from Stephen Frears, whilst enjoyable, is simply not deserving of her commendable talents.
Arterton plays the titular Tamara who, after decamping to London, returns to the sleepy village in which she grew up. Tamara now has a successful career as a columnist for The Independent, as well as a new nose. The audience, through multiple flashbacks, is privy to Tamara’s previous life as ‘beaky’, and needless to say, Tamara is now far more attractive than her previous incarnation.
Tamara Drewe essentially plays like a soap opera, complete with stock characters: the adulterer, the misused wife, the rock-star, and finally the farm-hand, whose manual labour and rugged exterior belies hidden depths. Whilst these clearly intentional caricatures may have played well within the confines of its graphic novel origins, they have become overbearing and obnoxious during the translation to screen. Even Tamara, surely the heroine of the piece, makes decisions that are simply disastrous in their consequences; for someone who is supposedly so intelligent and witty, some of her actions are akin to pure stupidity and the audience is left incredulous at her thought process, or perhaps, rather her lack of thought.
Despite these criticisms there is little doubt that Tamara Drewe starts well, and its promising opening only makes it more disappointing when the second half falls decidedly flat in comparison: the light-hearted comedic opening jarrs with the serious, tragic nature of the film’s later narrative.
The film feels altogether too smugly British, there is very little to like about any of the characters, with the majority of them being thoroughly odious. There is also far too little build up to the so-called dramatic ending; at this point the audience is beyond caring what happens to any of the characters, especially in the light of the horrible ways they have acted.
Arterton shines in an otherwise languid film and it can only be hoped that she is given a more deserving opportunity; many critics are questioning whether Tamara Drewe could herald Arterton’s big break: it unfortunately seems doubtful.