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Cinema Signal: A rowdy and hilarious sexual comedy from England. The light is green.

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. "Tamara Drewe"

There's something chess-like in the way the authors of this comic romp in rural England move key characters about without much reference to or reverance for norms of human behavior. But, as we're dealing here with a comic construction, flesh and blood realism is as welcome as a bear in a pup tent. If you're willing to suspend concern over simplicity and morality in a mock game of sin, love and home-breaking romance, "Tamara Drewe," with her smoldering sensuality, will show you where the fun lies.

Amidst the sort of rolling hills dotted by idyllic homes and farms that the English countryside is famous for, there's a dude ranch. The dudes, however, aren't just city dwellers looking for a summer retreat. These guests are writers, hard at work over their typewriters and computers in the sylvan quietude. The place is run by Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allen, "The Queen", "The Diary of Anne Frank" TV miniseries) successful book writer and serial cheater on his marriage to Beth (Tamsin Grieg) who is not only a fine innkeeper and cook, but a wizard of pastries and a completely indulgent dupe for her husband's false alibies.

The guests are mostly a gaggle of unpublished writers striving for some kind of recognition or the sudden appearance of a muse--as likely as a bolt of lightning.

Into this nest of creativity comes the beautiful title character, journalist Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton, "Clash of the Titans," "The Disappearance of Alice Creed"), returned from London after the death of her mother. She's here to find a buyer for her property, up the hill (and within sight of) the Hardiments. Somewhat of a free spirit with an exuberant personality, she astounds her former neighbors and old friends with her new look after a major nose job. To Andy Cobb (Luke Evans, "Clash of the Titans"), her old flame and village stud, however, she's still the beauty he's been in love with since childhoood.

Though he's working full time for the Hardiments as gardener and handyman, it doesn't take much for Tamara to add her needs to his workload (no, we're not talking sex here, yet), and soon he's engaged in sprucing up her long-languishing home which, from the outside at least, is a jewel of the countryside. Meanwhile, she returns to her literary roots and launches into an autobiographical novel.

Having no eyes for the handsome handyman beyond friendship, she lights on Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper, "An Education"), the drummer of an extreme rock band that does a gig at the local pub and whose quick moves and energy match her own. One kiss and he's moved into the Drewe manor with his yellow Porsche and brown dog.

With her love life temporarily taken care of, we become aware of Josie and Casey, two little teenage wretches who have all the time in the world to hurl eggs on traveling windshields and dodder on about whatever nonsense can be considered teen gossip. In another context, these would be the chorus of aged harpies brewing nastiness and trouble. Sure enough, things take on an ominous tone when Ben falls out with Tamara and returns to London. Josie, fearing she'll never see her heartthrob again--acting as a plot catalyst--breaks into Tamara's house and sends a false email from the owner's laptop that will mortify our heroine. But it will also bring Ben back so that Josie can have a shot at him.

All these moves between the primary chess pieces color the landscape with sinister passions, jealousies, betrayals and, even, a death by cow accident. It's not a pretty picture as it revolves around Tamara's selfish actions that threaten to spoil the sympathy for her helpless waif personna. But if you don't take it all that seriously, it's a pretty picture, indeed, as Stephen Frears' adaption of Posey Simmonds' graphic novel mixes hilarious ironies into the moral mayhem. The English countryside has never been so well planted with whimsy and we have Atherton's rowdy appetite to thank for it.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Gemma Arterton is Tamara Drewe
This girl has no need to worry about anything.

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