TAMARA DREWE * * * *
Cert 15, 111 mins
Leicester-born director Stephen Frears works wonders with significant parts of his latest British comedy that’s bawdily inspired by Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd.
A collection of writers gather to find rural inspiration, but returning to village life is newspaper columnist Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) whose bed-hopping antics soon even have cows running wild.
Running the literary events are philandering best-selling author Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) and long-suffering wife Beth (Tamsin Greig) who makes good cakes.
With one of their rows threatening to envelop the whole village, the cry goes up: “For God’s sake... we’re surrounded by novelists.”
To which one writer quips: “I didn’t know they provided material, too.”
The film is based on Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel and has been written by another woman, Moira Buffini.
Until the film starts being divided up rather unnecessarily into seasons and develops one sub-plot too many, Tamara Drewe is a barnstorming comedy.
It’s full of choice lines delivered with perfect timing by a cast clearly responding to Frears’ soaring confidence after making The Queen.
Arterton’s running gag about her new nose is now one of three similar delights this year, following Alfred Molina’s love of ostriches in Prince of Persia and the one-armed hotel porter in Hot Tub Time Machine.
But while older viewers aching for a good British movie will find much to applaud, their enjoyment might be tainted by excessive swearing. GY
THE RUNAWAYS * * *
Cert 15, 106 mins
Based on lead singer Cherie Currie’s memoir of her teenage years, Neon Angel, this is the story of the all-girl group managed by Kim Fowley, whose tentacles also touched Alice Cooper and Slade.
Dakota Fanning plays Currie, with Kristen Stewart as rhythm guitarist Joan Jett, Scout Taylor-Compton as lead guitarist Lita Ford and Stella Maeve as drummer Sandy West.
Michael Shannon is a hoot as Fowley, whose barked orders make Simon Cowell seem like a shrinking violet.
With lines like: “Get ready for boot camp babies because you’re going to get trained like the Viet Cong” and “I want to see you bitches do the death dance”, it’s clear who’s having the most fun.
In the end, the girls’ limited degree of ‘success’ is a brutal reminder that if you are not in control and are flying too close to a hot lamp, you’re likely to get burned. Running away isn’t always fun. GY
GOING THE DISTANCE * * *
Cert 15, 102 mins
It’s hard to tell the current state of the on-off relationship between Drew Barrymore and Justin Long.
They’re probably not dating as you read this, but they have split up and got together again a couple of times over the past few years. They’re still close enough friends to display a natural chemistry in this fairly entertaining romcom.
Barrymore plays would-be journalist Erin, who’s doing work experience at a New York newspaper on her summer break from Stanford University.
When she starts dating record company employee Garrett (Long), she warns him that she’s moving back to San Francisco in six weeks and doesn’t want anything heavy. That’s perfect for him, as he’s not good at commitment.
But he finds himself falling for Erin and, not wanting to wave her goodbye at the airport, they embark on a long-distance relationship.
There’s not much substance to a thin and rather contrived plot, but there are lots of laugh-out-loud lines – at least to start with.
Unfortunately the funny scenes, like Garrett’s flatmate providing the 1980s soundtrack to their first sexual encounter, dry up a little as the story gets repetitive and runs out of steam.
And I wanted to shake Erin as she struggles over her big dilemma, whether to take a staff job on a newspaper. Don’t you realise they’re harder to come by than Prime Minister Tony Blair’s non-alcohol days!
Erin drinks too, plus swears and chuckles with a dirty laugh, all of which make her an appealingly feisty heroine.
The support cast is good, especially Christina Applegate as Erin’s germphobic sister – and look out for Oliver Jackson-Cohen, last seen in Lark Rise to Candleford, as a sexy British barman. RL
CYRUS * * * *
Cert 15, 90 mins
We’re used to seeing John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill in lewd comedies like Step Brothers, Get Him To the Greek and Superbad.
But anyone expecting that level of juvenile humour will find this is a much more grown-up and clever script, prompting quite a few laughs, but of a bittersweet, rather than bawdy, kind.
Reilly plays awkward John, who’s chat-up line is “I’m depressed and borderline desperate”.
But somehow he finds his soulmate in Molly (Marisa Tomei). The only obstacle is her clingy 21-year-old son Cyrus (Hill). They have an intense relationship which Cyrus isn’t about to open up to include John.
Well observed and very well acted, it’s a shame the end feels like a cop-out. RL