A particularly English brand of sauce is slapped on this odd pseudo-romantic comedy based on Posy Simmonds’s Guardian cartoon strip. Girl of the moment Gemma Arterton plays the curvaceous Tamara Drewe, a provocative but desperate journalist who returns to her family home in England’s rolling West Counties to do the place up. She causes a right tizzy among the townsfolk, particularly the residents of a neighbouring writers retreat. She achieves this by walking around in hotpants, having sex with rock stars and married men and infuriating the womenfolk. To keep us amused when Tamara has nothing to do, we have a host of less-than-colourful characters to contend with, among them her childhood sweetheart Andy (Luke Evans) and two anarchic and potty-mouthed schoolgirls.
If you’re still at a loss as to what this film is about then join the club. It’s not about Tamara trying to fit in with her former community. It’s not about the pitfalls of extramarital affairs, nor is it about struggling writers seeking inspiration in nosey rural England. It’s none of these yet has hints of all. That would work perhaps if Tamara Drewe didn’t sell itself as a comedy because very little of it qualifies in this respect, even for the most unfussy of rom-com fans. Sure, it’s quite scandalous and even makes attempts at screwball-ism (it’s rarely predictable), but Tamara is a weird protagonist, too undignified and confused to win us over with knee-slaps. Anyone who saw The Disappearance of Alice Creed will vouch for Aterton’s acting chops, but she’s just lantern-jawed eyecandy here, reading the script and rolling her hips when need be.
Director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity) probably sought something along the lines of Desperate Housewives meets Last of the Summer Wine. What’s come out the other side, however, is more funny-strange than funny-ha-ha.