Tamara Drewe was such a saucy little minx growing up in her idyllic village in the English countryside – even before a nose job that would embolden her further – that years after her departure, men of various backgrounds and generations still feel a tingle at the very thought of her.
Now she’s returned home in “Tamara Drewe,” a light and whimsical affair that isn’t quite so unforgettable as the title character herself.
It does feature a beguiling turn from Gemma Arterton, who is on a roll lately in a series of varied parts, including the haughty royalty in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and the resourceful kidnapping victim in “The Disappearance of Alice Creed.”
The latest entry in director Stephen Frears’ lengthy and eclectic filmography (“The Queen,” “High Fidelity,” “Dangerous Liaisons”) is a clever twist on the traditional romantic British romp – only instead of being filled with charming characters, nearly everyone in “Tamara Drewe” is selfish, scheming or unlikable.
Moira Buffini’s screenplay is based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, which was inspired by Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd.” And wouldn’t you know, much of the action occurs at a rural writer’s retreat where one of the would-be authors is working on a book about Thomas Hardy.
The place is also a working farm populated by chickens and cows; the whole operation runs smoothly under the generous and gracious Beth Hardiment, steadfast wife of the arrogant and philandering crime novelist Nicholas Hardiment.
Tamsin Greig is naturally lovely and vulnerable as Beth, while Roger Allam is convincingly skeevy as her husband.
The strapping Andy Cobb (Luke Evans) is Beth’s stoic right-hand man. Among their guests is the nebbishy Glen (Bill Camp), who’s struggling with his book on Hardy.
All the film’s characters respond viscerally when Tamara returns to town to take over her family’s estate next door. Nicknamed “Beakie” as a teenager for her honking nose, Tamara has been transformed through the wonders of rhinoplasty – but as she climbs over a wooden fence, it’s her derriere-hugging shorts that really draw attention.
Tamara, a big-time London journalist, also works her magic on Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper), the surly, preening drummer for a rock band that’s performing a concert nearby. Tamara is supposed to be writing a story about Ben, but instead invites him home and jumps into bed with him.
The entirety of “Tamara Drewe” consists of her tempting and tormenting men, which grows more complicated when a couple of bored teenagers (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie), fans of Ben, break into Tamara’s house and fire off some scheming e-mails.
That’s about it. There’s not even any biting satire on social mores or anything else. The laughs are as broad as the scenery is picturesque. The characters are types but the whole experience is agreeable enough.
If you’re a dog lover, you’ll probably have trouble with a scene toward the end, but it’s probably best not to take this moment any more seriously than you would the rest of the film.