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Tamara Drewe

A round-robin of bed-hopping and back-stabbing in this British comedy of manners

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An attractive young woman named Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton) moves back to her small village in the English countryside, and causes all manner of domestic strife in Stephen Frears' comedy of manners. Most of the impact is felt at a local writers' retreat, run with breezy efficiency by the long-suffering wife (Tamsin Grieg) of a supremely pretentious mystery scribe (Roger Allam). Sympathetic denizens of the writers' lodge include its dishy handyman (Luke Evans) and an American (Bill Camp) working on a book about Thomas Hardy. Circling nearby are a pair of bored high school girls, and a rock star (Dominic Cooper), with a badly behaving dog. A roundelay of hook-ups and betrayals ensues over the course of a year. The humor is mostly droll, trading on such staples as class anxiety, celebrity culture, man's capacity for serial infidelity and the ability to turn a sharp phrase. While the plot obviously relies on contrivance to get everybody in and out of the right beds, Tamara manages to feel largely natural, anchored with low-key performances and appropriate dashes of bittersweet. It's not as achingly charming as the writers' retreat -- with organic garden! -- presented here, but two hours spent with Tamara Drewe is quite pleasant and amusing company. Starts Fri., Dec. 3. Manor

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