Posy Simmonds wrote a graphic novel loosely based on Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd,” and the screenplay for this movie is based on the graphic novel, with liberal literary references to Thomas Hardy, as well.
The setting is a writer’s retreat in the English countryside, where the owner, Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) is a successful novelist himself. He’s also quite full of his own sense of self-importance, pontificating at book signings, and shamelessly philandering. His long-suffering wife, Beth (Tamsin Greig) is consigned to play the hard-working, cuckolded spouse, who’s become an emotional doormat in her desperation to keep her marriage intact, or at least to maintain appearances. Glen McCreavy (Bill Camp) is an American professor on sabbatical, with a severe case of writer’s block. Andy Cobb (Luke Evans) is the handyman/gardener who grew up in the house next door, but his family couldn’t hang on to it. So he quietly covets it, along with the beautiful young girl, Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) whose family now owns it.
Tamara, having left this serene pastoral setting to be a journalist in London, now returns as a beautiful, charming young woman, like Liza Doolittle, now hardly recognizable as the awkward little bumpkin next door (well, the nose job helps, too).
Ready for the romantic fireworks? Many of the characters seem all too willing to couple very quickly, and deal with the implications later. Throw in a profligate rock star who’s just broken up with his band, a couple of young teenage girls who are so crazy about him that they’d do anything to meet him, even breaking into other’s people’s houses and sending an e-mail from their computer — tawdry pictures, even, which definitely gums up the works for the unwitting participants.
Even though it’s not rated R, the subject matter is definitely of a “mature” nature, it’s just that they’re very careful not to reveal certain body parts, or overuse the scatological language. After all, we’re intellectuals here; we’re supposed to be able to communicate effectively without the overworked slang words originally intended for emphasis, but whose effectiveness has since been blunted by overuse.
“Tamara Drewe” is a fun little modern tale, told lightheartedly, and without boorish pretense, other than for lampooning purposes, of course. Definitely good for a few quiet chuckles. But nothing too melodramatic — after all, we’re British.
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor of Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.