Funny and emotionally perceptive, the cartoon strip Tamara Drewe captivated British readers with its serialized update of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, and this screen adaptation by director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity) successfully re-creates the stripâ€™s pastoral tone and cheeky humor. The title character (Gemma Arterton), a sexy columnist for a London newspaper, returns to her rural hometown in Dorset and immediately turns the heads of an adulterous and self-regarding mystery novelist (Roger Allam), a smug rock star on his way down (Dominic Cooper), and a poor but good-hearted handyman (Bill Camp) at a neighboring writers' retreat. Her opposite number, and the actual protagonist despite the title, is the novelist's long-suffering and heart-scalded wife, nicely played by Tamsin Greig. Thomas Hardy it's not, but as far as middlebrow British romances go, better this than Love Actually.
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