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Cannes Review: “Tamara Drewe.”

Cannes Review: “Tamara Drewe.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Sassy, slick, slight and speedy, Stephen Frears’ “Tamara Drewe” explores the same territory as Woody Allen’s similarly out-of-competition “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” — the heart is capricious, and fate is cruel — while skewering both urban pretentions and rural rumor-mongering.

Frears’ adaptation of Posy Simmonds’ highbrow graphic novel kicks off when a writer’s retreat in Dorset is disrupted by the return of the title character (Gemma Arterton) who’s come back from London a newly minted celebrity (with a newly purchased nose) to spiff up and sell the family estate.

Tamara’s just across the fields from the sprawling grounds where best-selling thriller author Nicolas Hardiment (Roger Allam) and his dutiful wife Beth (Tamsin Greig) operate a writer’s retreat, with his infidelities as the simmering subtext to her efforts to make the perfect country estate. Tamara’s ex Andy (Luke Evans) is the Hardiment’s handyman; American academic Glen (Bill Camp) is churning away on his book on Hardy. Local teens Jody (Jessica Barden) and Casey (Charlotte Christie) welcome Tamara’s arrival as a new element in the sleepy town of Ewedown, even as her romance with indie drummer heartthrob Ben (Dominic Cooper) makes Tamara an object of envy and contempt.

05142010_TamaraDrewe2.jpgPosy Simmonds’ original comic strip (which ran in the books section of the Guardian in the U.K. as a soapy, satirical riff on Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd”) is nicely-served by Moira Buffini’s screenplay, which ups the level of vigorous venality as characters willfully and wickedly misbehave.

When her car is egged by Jody and Casey, Beth is more sympathetic than angry: “They’re just bored.” It’s a throwaway line, but it explains much of the motivation for the characters in “Tamara Drewe” — all the private affairs and public embarrassments spring from people lacking restraint not having anything better to do, and small sins set off large recriminations in the final act.

Frears juggles the plot’s elements with a light but firm touch, as we cycle through the seasons and the characters hop from bed to bed. Arterton’s Drewe is a calculated, charismatic careerist (Tamara works as a newspaper columnist, which is as ever movie shorthand for I am a likable narcissist with plenty to learn), but Arterton also conveys the old wounds behind Tamara’s new life and nose. The whole cast is superb, but standouts include Camp’s basically decent academic and Cooper’s overgrown adolescent rocker capable of rhyming “Tamara,” “tiara” and “spaghetti carbonara” as he serenades his new love.

05142010_TamaraDrewe3.jpg While some of the Dorset-accented slang is tricky to follow, the film mostly speaks in the universal languages of regret, remorse, foolishness and failure. “Tamara Drewe” concludes with some lives changed and some lives ended, the fates dispensing punishments and pleasures seemingly at random.

The film could be seen as part of Frears’ long track record with speedy social satire, from “Dangerous Liasons” to “High Fidelity;” it also fits in with his observations of English social mores like “My Beautiful Laundrette” and “The Queen.” “Tamara Drewe” isn’t Frears’ best film, but it’s decidedly his — a very British movie built on universal truths, and a human comedy that stays humane.

“Tamara Drewe” will be released by Sony Pictures Classics later this year.

[Photos: “Tamara Drewe,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2010]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.