Tamara Drewe 2010
This is one of those movies where I end up drawing a bit of a blurry line as to what I consider a comic book movie and I realize that I don’t think I’ll ever come up with a set of criteria that won’t be too exclusive without also being too inclusive. But similar to Dick Tracy, Tamara Drewe actually started out its life as a weekly serialized comic strip that ran in the UK newspaper the Guardian starting in 2005. Then it was released in a collected form as a graphic novel in 2007 and then just a few years later it was turned into a movie. It’s a loose retelling of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd but that’s not really a story that I’m familiar with so any references and allusions to it would have been lost on me. There were some funny bits, but the more I think about the film, the less it really sticks with me.
The movie more or less follows a year in this small town in England where a famous writer lives on a little farm, and a young woman named Tamara Drewe comes back after her mom’s death to decide what to do with her mother’s house. She has a past with this town and many of the other characters in the film and she has grown up hot, after a nose job of course. And literally every male character wants to sleep with her. Not only that, but it seems to essentially be the entire focus of her character. She does have ambition where she wants to become a journalist, but there is really no momentum for that goal. Instead, it’s just used as a device for her to engage in a relationship with a man. Near the beginning, she goes to a concert where the band has a fight and essentially breaks up on stage over a women, and she mentions that she’s a journalist sent to interview the drummer. But instead of actually going through with an interview, it’s just an opening for them to start snogging. And later on in the film, she starts writing a book, entirely offscreen, and it only comes up again when she starts screwing the older, married writer Nicholas. Even with her introduction to the other characters, she comes to this writer’s retreat wearing a tight shirt and very short shorts and every man’s gaze is directed towards her along with a very overt symbolism where Nicholas pops open a bottle of Champagne right above his crotch when he sees her.
Throughout the film, there were also a pair of characters that were quite possibly remnants of the Far From the Madding Crowd. They were two teenage girls with nothing better to do than gossip about their teen rag, fantasize about their favorite band, randomly egg cars, and sneak around eavesdropping on everyone in the neighborhood. They were generally annoying, had nothing at all to do with any of the characters minus a couple significant plot points, and yet we spend way too much time with them. The one bit of humor that was great, especially since it was entirely a background gag, was when the two of them are talking with each other, one is smoking a cigarette. She puts tosses it into the trash bin as they continue talking about something else, and when the trash can comes into frame again at the end of the scene, it’s on fire. There’s no mention or reference to it within the scene, it’s just a random thing happening in the background. Which is exactly what these two characters felt like they were in regards to the overall story, except for the fact that the film kept forcing them into the foreground.
Tamara Drewe is the main character of the film, and more or less the driving force of the story, except for the fact that her only reason to exist is to be the object of affection for almost literally every other man in the movie, minus the walking reference to the source material: the struggling writer trying to pen a novel about Thomas Hardy, or biography, or something like that, it’s not entirely clear nor does it really matter. Aside from him, there are three men in the movie. There’s the farm boy played by Luke Evans. His family used to own Tamara’s house, and he used to sleep around with Tamara back when she had a big nose, and it’s pretty obvious that they will end up together from the moment they first see each other. There’s the drummer, played by Dominic Cooper in a very stereotypical version of the rock star who lets fame and wealth go to his head. And there’s Nicholas who is really more of a main character than Tamara in terms of his character development and arc. He’s a writer, but doesn’t really care for the art of writing anymore, his novels are popular trash. He’s a long time adulterer who doesn’t really seem to care for his wife outside of her cooking skills, even though he’ll go straight into a routine apology every time he gets caught with his dick out, so to speak. And even though there are several flashbacks and moments where it seems like Tamara and Nicholas would have nothing to do with one another, there’s always that little bit of obvious tension between them. Like when Tamara takes her drummer boyfriend to Nicholas’s book signing, where it’s immediately obvious that the only reason she is there is to rub him in the face of Nicholas, even though nothing of the sort is remotely said about it. Honestly, the most interesting character dynamic is the one between Nicholas, his wife, and the struggling writer.
There are a few touches of visual flair spread throughout the film. There are handfuls of split screen moments that may or may not have been intended to help simulate the look of a comic panel. They’re often used in conjunction with flashbacks which unfortunately often choose to focus on Tamara’s large, hooked nose which also paints her even more in a negative and shallow light as someone who’s only focused on her looks. There are also a few surprises near the end of the film, they’re not exactly twists since they don’t have any impact on the rest of the story, but there are a few things that you might not expect to see happen in this kind of story. And while I feel like I’ve been railing against this film for most of the review, it’s not a failure of a film. It’s entertaining to watch, it has its funny moments, but the more I thought about it and the more I broke it down, the more it came up lacking. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.