Tamara Drewe

 

Starring Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, Roger Allam, Tamsin Greig, Bronagh Gallagher 15A cert, gen release, 110 min

TAMARA DREWE began life as a comic strip in the Guardianand, by golly, it shows. A reworking of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowdby cartoonist Posy Simmons, this series of doodles set around a writer’s retreat was defined by such bourgeois fantasies as city folk running a “working farm” and Little Englander brand sauce. These details are given a somewhat caustic gloss in Stephen Frears’s film version.

The eponymous heroine (Gemma Arterton) is a young journalist, who, returning to the rural idyll of her childhood, ignites interest among the locals, including a pompous crime writer Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) and his jealous, greatly put upon wife, Beth (Tasmin Greig). The feisty yet vulnerable Tamara must soon choose between two very different suitors, a preening rock star (Dominic Cooper) and her loyal childhood sweetheart (Luke Evans).

There are plenty of things to admire about the film; Messrs Allam and Cooper make for hilarious villains, and the divine Ms. Arterton chews up her parts with a haughty relish. Still, though chocolate box pretty and larkish in tone, it’s hard to believe in a film where insufferable pigs get the girls and every plot turn depends on coincidence. None of the one- dimensional characters, including the wronged Beth, ever truly win us over. The men are invariably bumbling, the women simper furiously.

Watch Tamara Dreweas a sunny romp and you’ll get along just fine; think about it later and it’s a middlebrow rendition of Confessions of a Window Cleaner.