Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tamara Drewe (Rhoades)

“Tamara Drewe” Retells Thomas Hardy
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Remember Classics Illustrated, those comic books featuring classic literature retold in a graphic format? Who would have made it through high school English classes without them?

Well, here we have another example of comic books and classic novels forming an interesting partnership – a film version of “Tamara Drewe.” As the credits tell us, the film is based on a graphic novel.

In my textbook “Comic Books: How the Industry Works” I point out two different kinds of graphic novels – original stories (known as OGN, “original graphic novels”) and anthologies of previously published material.
The “Tamara Drewe” graphic novel was a compilation of a weekly comic strip by Posy Simmonds that first appeared in Britain’s The Guardian in 2005. The strip was a modern retelling of Thomas Hardy’s 19th Century novel “Far From the Madding Crowd.”

Better than Classics Illustrated, the movie animates the characters to life. You can catch “Tamara Drewe” this week at the Tropic Cinema.

This film version stars Gemma Arterton as the titular Tamara. She’s a young journalist who returns to her hometown of Ewedown (a fictional town in Dorset, England) in order to sell her deceased mother’s house. Local folks are amazed at Tamara’s transformation, now a real looker after having a nose job and blossoming out in all the right places. She quickly attracts the attention of Andy (played by Luke Evans), a childhood friend. But the leggy Tamara is a randy gal who embarks on affairs with writers and boy-band drummers. Alas, poor Andy.

Like a Greek chorus, a group of authors gather at a neighbor’s house across the valley and witness these carryings-on. Will Tamara and Andy connect? Hint: Does Gabriel Oak get Bathsheba Everdene in Thomas Hardy’s fourth novel?

This comedy comes from Stephen Frears, the British director who gave us “My Beautiful Laundrette,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” and “The Queen.”

The lovely English actress Gemma Arterton has had some experience with Thomas Hardy, having starred in a film version of “Tess of the D’Ubervilles.” You’ve also seen her with Daniel Craig in the James Bond thriller “Quantum of Solace” and with Jake Gyllenhaal in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” And you’ll be encountering her again, fighting aliens in the upcoming “Men In Black III.”

But back to “Tamara Drewe.” Here we have a movie based on a graphic novel based on a comic strip based on a dusty old novel. How does it translate?

“Turning graphic novels into films can be a tricky business,” notes Lisa Mullen of Sight & Sound. “Here the romantic themes – concerning sensible spouse choice ... are undercut by a bawdy appreciation of chaos, mischief, and mayhem.”

Yep, there you have it. I can enjoy watching a beautiful girl getting intro mischief, not matter what the source of the story.
[from Solares Hill]

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