Tamara Drewe me in

Tamara Drewe, a new film by Stephen Frears, who directed one of my all-time favourite movies, Prick Up Your Ears, feels like an instant feel-good Brit classic, from a happier time - and it is sadly ironic to see this well-reviewed pic open with thanks to the UK Film Council, now axed.  The movie, based on a series of cartoons from The Guardian, which I followed when in Budapest and Paris about ten years ago, manages to retain almost all the key story-boarding beats from the drawings of Posy Simmonds (the title is of course an anagram of Me Draw Art).  We are invited in to an idyllic pastoral, disrupted as in the best English farce, by middle-class poseurs and love-rats.

What makes the film so deliciously ripe - the cinematography is sun-burnished and hyper-idealised, so Dorset becomes a new Eden - is how it enjoys satirising a variety of familiar British types from other films and TV shows - the pompous crime novelist; the lesbian creative writer; the suffering plain wife; the self-obsessed rock drummer; the visiting American academic; the hunky local boy; the Australian bar slattern; the sex-crazed teenage girls; and the sexy Independent columnist.  Tamara Drewe is as cosy as a cuppa, but thrums with a low note of doom and malice, as betrayals, lies, and crimes of passion mount.  The denouement, in a cow-crowded field, with several gunshots, feels as dramatic as something from Howard's End, or indeed, Hardy.

The lead actress Gemma Arterton reveals herself to be wildly attractive - a sort of British Bardot - and could be set for stardom after this.  Perhaps the funniest, most charming English comedy since Notting Hill, it will be fun to see if Americans fall under the spell, or if this proves to be a confection that spoils on shipment.  Four specs out of five!


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