The only thing pretentious about the indie comedy “Tamara Drewe” is its characters — pompous writers seeking solace from the outside world at a rural farm in England.
But the film itself is almost too nice. Still, it’s a charming — if somewhat slight — excursion.
It’s based on Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel of the same name (which was itself inspired by Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd”), and follows the title character (played by Gemma Arterton), a journalist who returns to the small English village where she grew up. She finds that not much has changed, especially not the people.
But she has changed dramatically — from an ugly duckling into a beautiful young woman, after a rather extreme nose job (Pinocchio would be envious).
Tamara’s new outward appearance gets the attention of her old boyfriend, Andy (Luke Evans), who works as a handyman at a writers’ commune run by famous novelist Nicholas (Roger Allam) and his frumpy, underappreciated wife, Beth (Tamsin Greig). Beth sees to the authors’ needs and keeps the farm going, while also suspecting that her husband is cheating on her.
The authors are needy, to say the least. They run the gamut from a novelist working on a porn novel to one trying to get over writer’s block, with little success.
This is all observed by two bored teen girls who spy on everyone and create havoc whenever they can. But their interest is really piqued when Tamara brings home rock star Ben (Dominic Cooper) after interviewing his band.
And that starts a whole comedy of errors, as ex-boyfriend Ben begins to get jealous, as the girls try to get close to the rock star, and as the authors get entwined in one anothers’ lives and loves, with messy results.
It’s a breezy soap opera, one that’s engaging but not too emotional. And that’s almost a problem. We don’t really get invested, which is surprising coming from director Stephen Frears, who made “The Queen” so involving.
But he coaxes fine performances from most of his buoyant ensemble cast, especially Greig, who gives the film its heart. The exception is Arterton, and that’s mostly due to the script. Her Tamara is ultimately bland, making it difficult to see why everyone is so infatuated with her. At least a big nose is interesting.
Rating: R (language and some sexuality)
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Luke Evans, Roger Allam, Tamsin Greig, Dominic Cooper
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Showing at: Warren Theatre (east)