Starring: Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Dominic Cooper
Directed by: Stephen Frears (“The Queen”)
Written by: Moira Buffini (debut)
Based on a series of newspaper comic strips, which were later used to create a graphic novel, “Tamara Drewe” proves to have a much more interesting personality when printed on paper than she does in an actual feature film. Despite actress Gemma Arterton (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”) doing her best to draw us in with more than her short shorts, the title character reveals herself to be surprisingly unlikeable.
Tamara’s negative characteristics would not be completely intolerable if you can believe that is exactly what two-time Oscar nominated director Stephen Frears really wanted from this British farce. Unfortunately, it feels like somewhere in the translation from the page to the screen, first-time writer Moira Buffini loses touch with Tamara. Watching her jump from bed to bed, it probably was a little difficult to keep up.
In the film, Tamara, a frisky newspaper columinst, returns to the countryside town of Dorset, England where she grew up and causes a ruckus among the reclusive men of a writing retreat who are all spontaneously inspired by her presence. The men, including farm owner Nicholas (Roger Allam), who is already cheating on his wife Beth (Tasmin Greig), are smitten. Call Tamara a muse if you want, but she’s trouble any way you look at it.
While it might have been easy enough for Arterton to run away with the picture because of her initial charm, the most substance audiences will gather is within the writer’s retreat. Greig hasn’t received enough credit this year for her supporting role as a woman scorn. Bill Camp (“Public Enemies”) is also memorable as Glen McCreavy, a writer obsessed with novelist Thomas Hardy who wrote “Far from a Maddening Crowd,” which is actually the real-life inspiration for the original “Tamara Drewe” comic.
Still, once we leave the comfortable confides of the writer’s camp, “Tamara Drewe” spreads itself thin among a collection of characters better suited for blathering British TV. Tamara of “Tamara Drewe” might be easy on the eyes, but once she starts sharing awkwardly-written dialogue between lovers, it’s much easier to just tune out.