Warning: this review contains spoilers regarding the plot and fate of characters.
Playwright Moira Buffini has adapted Posy Simmond’s graphic novel in a contemplative way, so that the audience can consider just how dependent society is on celebrity culture and its ability to ruin relationships. With the conventions of a soap opera such as Eastenders and the over-friendly but tense soundtrack from something like Midsomer Murders, Tamara Drewe’s sleepy hometown of Ewedown comes alive as she makes her return as a provocative beauty with ‘unfinished business’. She appears no longer with a repulsive conk of a nose leading her reputation, but instead a new plastic one, which is a leading motif within the film as we watch noses either being stuck in other people’s business, or being broken by angry farmers.
The film is separated into several compact narratives, or problems, a convention often found in romantic comedies such as Valentine’s Day (2010) to establish an engaging and complex story. Gemma Arterton creates a scandal in this small town, similar to the hype she is generating in the film world as she climbs the ladder to A-List heaven. Finally grasping a femme fatale role, Arterton also has the chance to merge her work from the TV series Tess of the D’Urbervilles, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s book, playing a country girl.
Arterton’s contribution to Lost in Austen indicated her ability to perform as an emotional character, however, the most admirable female in Tamara Drewe is without a doubt Beth Hardiment (Black Books’ Tamsin Greig). Part of the dialogue is communicated in voiceovers, enabling the audience to discover secrets that the remaining characters are oblivious to, although there is one character, American Glen McCreavy (Bill Camp) who observes and hears all. In one unique scene Beth Hardiment addresses the audience directly by looking into the camera, giving the impression she is treating us as a close friend.
What is so admirable about Beth Hardiment is her blind-eye approach towards her husband’s affairs, as Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) uses their ‘writer’s retreat’ home as a setting for flirtatiousness with avid fans to boost his ego and relaxed crime novelist lifestyle while Beth surrounds herself in homemade delights. Her character is similar to that of Karen (Emma Thompson) in Love Actually (2003) who also ignores her husband’s deceitful actions; despite being unaware it is their ignorance that allows the men to stray in the first place. It would not be appropriate to laugh at Beth’s pain, however director Stephen Frears has made her consequences worsen in an entertaining manner; for example as she finds a picture message on her phone, proceeds to drop her mixture bowl and begins to cry, she also sobs, “I trod in the sponge mix” in a disappointing way, and the reality here dawns that we can all relate to these times of fear, anger and ‘things can’t get any worse’.Pages: 1 2