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'Tamara Drewe' is Stephen Frears lite

Gemma Arterton stars as the village vixen Tamara Drewe.

Sony Pictures Classics

Gemma Arterton stars as the village vixen Tamara Drewe.

Tamara Drewe (R) (111 min.) — Not all graphic novels are devoted to sci-fi and superheroes, no matter what Hollywood suggests. They also tell stories as fluffily sexy as Posy Simmonds' compilation of serialized cartoons about an English village vixen named Tamara Drewe. That Simmonds loosely based Tamara's tale on Thomas Hardy's novel Far From the Madding Crowd is the stuffiest thing about it.

Tamara (Bond girl Gemma Arterton) grew up in this pastoral region, where she's remembered by townies only as an ugly duckling with a large nose.

Not anymore. Tamara moved to London, got a nice journalism career and a nose job and evolved into an oversexed swan. She's back to claim her family's estate, and for every man in town it's lust at next sight.

Handyman Andy Cobb (Luke Evans) is the village stud who can't believe he dumped this sexpot back in school. Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) is a failed author running a writer's retreat with his wife, Beth (Tamsin Greig), whom he cheats upon whenever possible, so Tamara is a target.

However, she takes a fancy to visiting rock star Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper) — although flirting with anyone isn't off the table.

Tamara Drewe doesn't have a plot, per se, only a series of misadventures as men pursue Tamara and she saucily shoves them away.

Like its source material, the story is so episodic that there's no cumulative effect; you watch and smile and then go about your day, rarely considering Stephen Frears' film again. Frears (The Queen, Dirty Pretty Things) displays a lighter touch than usual — England never looks this sunny on screen — making darker quirks such as death by cow stampede feel jarringly out of place.

The cast is delightful top to bottom, although Arterton's role is chiefly defined by seductive smiles and the rise of her cut-off shorts. Allam and Cooper are standouts, creating hormonally despicable characters getting more of Tamara's attention than they deserve. (BayWalk 20 in St. Petersburg) B

Steve Persall, Times film critic

'Tamara Drewe' is Stephen Frears lite 12/08/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 3:30am]
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