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  M.   May 08, 2010

Number sixth in this series is the latest from Stephen Frears, a comedy adapted from the a newpaper comic strip ‘Tamara Drewe’ (later compiled into a popular graphic novel) which was written by Posy Simmonds and will show Out of Competition at Cannes. The gorgeous Gemma Arterton will play the eponymous heroine, billed as a sexy flirt who returns to her small country village as her childhood home is being prepared for sale (filmed on location in West Dorset and London) and stirs up “dark passions” among the locals. The official synopsis rides something like this, though I’ve edited in places…

Tamara Drewe has transformed herself. Plastic surgery, a different wardrobe, a smouldering look, have given her confidence and a new and thrilling power to attract, which she uses recklessly. Often just for the fun of it. People are drawn to Tamara Drewe, both male and female.

In the remote village where her late mother lived Tamara arrives to clear up the house in preparation for its sale. Here she becomes an object of lust, of envy, the focus of unrequited love, a seductress. To the village teenagers she is ‘plastic-fantastic’, a role model. Ultimately, when her hot and indiscriminate glances lead to tragedy, she is seen as a man-eater, a heartless marriage wrecker, and a slut.

Not exactly helping matters, Tamara becomes romantically involved with three different chaps; the dashing groundskeeper Andy (Luke Evans), handsome rock band drummer Ben (Dominic Cooper) and married philandering literary retreat organiser Nicholas (Roger Allam). Rumour has it, there are also sparks between the heroine and Nicholas’ wife, played by Tamsin Greig.

Arterton has been quoted breaking her character down as ’lost in her expectations of being a modern woman in today’s world – the expectations of beauty and success – when what really she desires is to be loved’.

Simmonds’ novel, itself a collection of comic strips she first published in U.K. newspaper the Guardian, is a modern reimagining of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel “Far From the Madding Crowd”, and looks to be the kind of proper starring vehicle that will further cement Arterton’s position as one of Britain’s best leading ladies. She is certainly beautiful enough, and has proved her range already this year in ‘The Prince of Persia’, ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘The Disappearance of Alice Creed’, as well as her earlier sex-kitten turn in ‘St Trinians’.

Reasons to be Excited

– The casting. As you may have guessed by now, I believe you can tell a lot about a film by the cast it collects together. As a good starting point, ‘Tamara Drewe’ has Gemma Arterton, one of the hottest prospectson both sides of the Atlantic at the minute, but beyond her is hot property Dominic Cooper, Britain’s funniest comic actress Tamsin Greig and ‘The Thick of It’ actor Roger Allam among others. Frears knows how to make British talent work for his movies.

– It’s Stephen Frears. The man has been responsible for some of the biggest British films of the past 25 years, from 1985’s ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’, through the excellent ‘Prick Up Your Ears’ with Gary Oldman and the underappreciated classic ‘The Van’, to modern behemoths ‘The Deal’ and ‘The Queen’. But the man is also a chameleon- he has made these staple British films, but at the same time made ‘Hero’ with Dustin Hoffman, ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ with Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Keanue Reeves and John Malkovich (on blistering form) and most fabulously of all, perennial favourite ‘High Fidelity’ with Jack Black and John Cusack (who also lead Frears’ ‘The Grifters’ alongside Anjelica Huston and Annette Benning).

– Good stock. The original comic strip came from The Guardian Review section. And it is a well known fact that The Guardian (and by extension The Observer) is a newspaper to be trusted. There is also the small matter that ‘Tamara Drewe’ is a modern retelling of Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd. If my experience of the comic is aything to go by, Frears has found a project perfectly suited to his humanist approach to story-telling.

– Chances are, it’s going to be a lot different to anything else showing, and when attempting to see three films a day over nine or ten days variation becomes much more than just the spice of life.