This satirical British sex romp from director Stephen Frears (“The Queen,” “Mrs. Henderson Presents” and “Dirty Pretty Things”) is a modern reimagining of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel “Far From the Madding Crowd” and is based on a collection of UK newspaper comic strips compiled in an acclaimed graphic novel by Posy Simmonds.
Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton from “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” “Clash of the Titans” and “Quantum of Solace”), an entertainment columnist at a London newspaper, returns to her hometown village in the English countryside to prepare her late mother’s house for sale. She used to be an ugly duckling, but now the residents see a glamorous beauty with sex appeal thanks to a life-changing nose job.
She rekindles passionate desires in her old flame Andy Cobb (Luke Evans from “Robin Hood” and “Clash of the Titans”), a strikingly handsome handyman. Andy is employed by Nicholas and Beth Hardiment (Roger Allam and Tamsin Greig) at Stonefield, which doubles as a writers’ retreat and a fully organic farm.
Nicholas, a successful crime fiction writer, is a philandering adulterer who takes Beth for granted. Beth knows her husband cheats on her, but always takes him back whenever he pleads for forgiveness.
Tamara is quick to jump in the sack with Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper from “An Education” and “Mamma Mia!”), an obnoxious drummer with the rock band Swipe. Tamara accepts his marriage proposal, even though the ring, originally intended for another woman, doesn’t fit her finger.
Jody Long (Jessica Barden), a 15-year-old local girl with a crush on Ben, takes steps to sabotage the engagement. Other key characters contributing to the madcap mayhem are nebbish American writer Glen McCreavy (Bill Camp), Jody’s best friend Casey Shaw (Charlotte Christie) and Ben’s canine boxer Boss, who often gets loose and torments a local farmer’s cattle.
This instantly forgettable soap opera strings together infatuations, jealousies and love affairs. Everybody gets in the act of kissing, making out and having sex with someone.
The movie is broken up into four segments coinciding with a different season of the year. The shooting location of Dorset, England, provides an idyllic and picturesque setting. The orderly existence of the chickens and cows in the background provides a startling contrast to the dysfunctional human beings.
A lot of British slang is used in the dialogue. The conversations are filled with profanity and obscene remarks.
The movie debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and was also shown at festivals in Telluride and Toronto. It is better suited to this format playing once and then moving on to another city. Your better film alternatives to this “much ado about nothing” production are “Keeping Mum” (2005) and “Love Actually” (2003). Opening at the Leawood, AMC Town Center 20 and Cinemark Palace at the Plaza.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"