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Books-Into-Movies: “Tamara Drewe” (based on Tamara Drewe) December 22, 2011

Posted by rwf1954 in book synopsis, books, books compared to movies, books into movies, movie commentary, movies, movies based on books, Posy Simmonds, Tamara Drewe.
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(Richard Warren Field wrote the award-winning novel,
The Swords of Faith. Read why this book will make a great movie.)

(This month, I posted a Books-Into-Movies commentary on the recent film release, “Hugo,” based on a graphic novel. Last year, I posted two Books-Into-Movies commentaries about graphic novels at a blog I discontinued last year, “Books Into Movies.” This commentary was first posted at that blog in October of 2010.)

“Tamara Drewe” (Movie Release Date: October 8, 2010)

Based on the book Tamara Drewe, written by Posy Simmonds, published 2008.

The Movie: “Tamara Drewe” the movie keeps the broad outline of the story presented in the novel, but makes many changes. These changes lead to deeper, more multi-dimensional characters, and to a more upbeat ending. There were a few significant changes that I will discuss first. I will then list other observations about the movie that struck me as interesting enough to mention.

I. Beth and Glen

Beth and Glen end up together at the end of the film. In the book, Glen ends up with literary success. In the movie, he ends with relationship success, coming together with Beth, whom he has developed deep affection for, enough for him to say he has overcome his writer’s block by thinking of writing for her—all this coming together at a place he has come to love as an inspiration for his creativity.

II. Jody Survives

Jody does not die trying to get high on air freshener. She ends up in an embrace with her rock-and-roll crush Ben; Casey stands by to snap pictures for posterity, or at least for their circle of contacts.

These are significant changes that give the film a more upbeat ending than the book.

_______

Other notes of comparison:

  • In the opening credits, there is no mention of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd as an inspiration for the book. But the phrase is featured in the ad for the Stonefield writer’s retreat. And Glen’s writing project is about Thomas Hardy. Hardy is discussed frequently, and Hardy’s personal life, including his attraction to much younger women, acts as a definite counterpoint to Nick’s behavior. This discussion of Hardy is not in the book.
  • In my opinion, Nick looks dowdier in the movie—he is jowly, and flabbier than he seems to be drawn in the graphic novel.
  • In my opinion, Beth is frumpier and Glen is dumpier in the book. Neither are gorgeous in the movie, but they are more attractive than in the book.
  • Casey and Jody are introduced later in the book. They appear immediately in the movie. The spunkiness of Jody and the more passive adolescent misbehavior of Casey are captured beautifully in the movie—these two spunky girls are fun to watch! There were a few scenes in the movie for them that were not in the book, but that captured their characters beautifully:
    • The girls egging cars. (It’s two guys in the book.)
    • The girls trying to sneak into a show where Ben is performing.
    • Their own lives serving as motivations for some of their actions; Jody dislikes Nick because Nick reminds her of her cheating father.
  • Tamara starts off calling the house inherited from her mother “a dump.” It takes her awhile to warm up to it. Andy’s work on the house is a part of that process. In the book she connects with the home more quickly. In the movie, she stops by the place and then goes immediately to a hotel. The alarm scene takes place the next day. She talks about getting the place ready to sell.
  • The movie introduces a new character, a rough-around-the-edges woman who self-publishes her lesbian material on the internet. She is now one of the writers at the retreat. She has some funny moments early, but disappears. There was no one like her in the book.
  • The nosy bartender who acts as a sexual release for Andy is not in the book.
  • Ben leaving his band while on stage is not in the book.
  • Ben’s scene drumming on kitchen objects, a wonderful scene both to watch and to listen to, is not in the book.
  • The dog spooking the cows is a key part of the book, and is portrayed almost exactly the same in the movie. The only exception (and a it’s a big one) is the dog getting shot at the end of the film. Ben’s hostility toward the woman chasing his dog away from the cows, and hostility toward Beth for chaining up his out-of-control dog, set up the shooting of the dog by the feisty middle-aged female cattle owner. Ben’s behavior and unwillingness to control his dog make this outcome palatable.
  • The girls breaking into Tamara’s home is right out of the book, and generates much of the story’s drama.
  • The Jody email to Ben, sent from Tamara’s computer, about “giving you the shagging of your life,”—it’s not clear to whom it is addressed—is in the book. In the book, we see the email, addressed to Ben with a cc to Nick. The results of the email are right out of the book, including Jody’s realization that her email could break up Tamara and Ben, and as a result, remove Ben from her life.
  • Ben’s drumming, making it difficult for Tamara to write, is not in the book. It serves well to show Tamara and Ben having less and less in common, other than passionate sex.
  • Tamara at first directly and blatantly rejects Nick; this is not in the book. In the movie, Tamara makes an attempt to seduce Nick when she is younger and big-nosed. In the book, these two have had a past relationship together. In the movie, after the initial rejection, Tamara takes Nick on the rebound. In the book, she is rekindling a previous relationship.
  • The kiss at the vehicle between Tamara and Nick, recorded by Casey on her cell phone, is right out of the book. The picture is not sent right away in the movie; when Nick splashes Casey, she sends the picture in a fit of spite. She hesitates at first to send the picture because she knows the harm it could do. In the book, the picture is sent right away.
  • Jody’s attempt to meet Ben by posing as a “dog-lover” is also right out of the book, right up to Ben discovering her and confronting her at Tamara’s home. Tamara is not part of that confrontation in the book.
  • Nick wanting a future with Tamara, with Tamara not sharing that desire, is in the book. But the details deviate:
    • Tamara rejects Nick and breaks up with him in the movie; in the book, she just hopes Beth and Nick will stay together and does not makes her wishes known.
    • Tamara tells Nick that Andy is better than he is (not in the book). This leads to—
    • Nick begs Beth to get back together with him after Tamara’s rejection.
    • Nick catches Glen kissing Ben. So—
    • Nick’s confrontation with Glen at the water trough is more intense, involving an argument over Beth and who will be with her.
  • Beth confronting Nick about his adultery at a writer’s conference does not happen in the book.
  • The cow stampede scene is different in the movie, and makes Glen a more likable character. Instead of just running off after Nick falls back and hits his head, rendering him dazed and semi-conscious, Glen stays and tries to revive him, even to move him, and only leaves when the cows are arriving and there is no more that can be done.
  • In the book, Casey apologizes to both Tamara and Beth. This does not occur in the movie.
  • Beth’s breaking Tamara’s nose (a cute event in light of Tamara’s nose job that seemed to transform her into such a sexually charged temptation) is not in the book.
  • Tamara and Andy ending up together, with child, is in the book.

Tamara Drewe as a graphic novel offered a storyline and a cast of characters that the film-makers used as a jumping off point for crafting a small-scope, fun movie. The changes allowed actors to inject more energy into the character and the story.
_______

The Book: Tamara Drewe is a “graphic novel” by author Posy Simmonds. (We used to call these “comic books” when I was younger, but the term “graphic novel” is better—this is not “comic,” and the story is told with drawn pictures.) The writer suggests the book is “inspired” by Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. I have not reviewed the Hardy novel for this post.

The author tells the story from a number of character points-of-view:

  • Glen Larson, the dumpy translator trying to perfect his literary novel.
  • Beth Hardiman, the frumpy middle-aged wife of successsful crime novelist, Nicholas Hardiman, and the organizer/operator of the author-friendly Stonefield Retreat.
  • Nicholas Hardiman, the self-centered, commercially successful author.
  • Andy Cobb, handyman around the Stonefield Retreat.
  • Tamara Drewe, the sexually charged columnist, returned to her family home—she is depicted and drawn as one of those young women who oozes sexuality in a way that has heterosexual males of all ages completely distracted when in her presence.
  • Casey Shaw, the teenage girl tangled in the antics of her more adventurous friend, Jody.

_______

The story starts with Glen Larsen settling in to work on his still-not-completed literary masterpiece. Beth Hardiman works on keeping Stonefield Retreat running for the authors staying there. This includes her husband, whom she transcribes written pages into the computer for. She wonders why Nicholas doesn’t want her to come to a party in London with him. Is he ashamed of her? Is he seeing another woman—again? She fights with him over the issue, and believes their marriage may be over.

Andy Cobb, the estate handyman, a modest, good-looking young guy, hears the argument and offers support to Beth: “He won’t last five minutes without you…” Glen Larsen overhears the fight as well, and considers he is glad his own relationship of convenience is fizzling out.

The relationship between Nicholas Hardiman and his latest love-interest, Nadia Patel, breaks up. Glen notices that the Hardimans appear to be back together. But from Beth’s point-of-view, we see she remains unhappy about the situation.

The burglar alarm goes off at Winnard’s Farm. The place has been unoccupied since the owner “Mrs. Drewe” has died. Andy Cobb goes over to investigate and finds Tamara Drewe. She has had a nose job, and looks great—not just her face. Tamara comes over to apologize for the alarm. She has light brown hair and is drawn as a very sexy young lady. Glen notices her looking at Nick in a familiar way as she walks away. Glen strikes up a conversation with her, then makes a clumsy pass. She angrily rejects him.

Beth is annoyed with Tamara “dressing like a sex object… sucking up to male fantasies.” Nick recalls a past fling with Tamara, when she had a big nose and was much less sexually-charged. Andy recalls Tamara from before the nose-job. Tamara points out to him that it’s not “false, just smaller.” Tamara asks Andy to help out at her house as well. Beth is annoyed that “Tamara Drewe is trying to poach Andy.” Tamara tells Beth she thinks the farm will give her material for her column. Beth seems to make peace with her as they (Beth, Andy and Tamara) preside over the mating of two goats (which ends up in Tamara’s column described as a “blind date”). Andy tells Tamara he has fallen in love with her.

Tamara starts a passionate affair with Ben Sergeant, ex-drummer of a high profile rock band. Tamara brings Ben and his dog to her farm. Andy is upset Tamara has a boyfriend, but reconciles himself to it. Ben’s dog “bothers” the local cattle. Nicholas seems impressed with Ben’s fame, and charmingly tells him someone might shoot his dog. Ben finds the author’s retreat at Stonefield “disgusting.”

Tamara considers getting married to Ben. She runs into Nick at a book signing. He seems indifferent to her. Glen is making progress on his book, and confirms with Beth that he can come back to Stonefield the following February to finish it, as Stonefield is the only place where he feels he can write effectively. Tamara and Ben run into problem when Ben wants her to sell her home. He’s talking about moving to LA.

Casey Shaw and Jody Long break into Tamara’s home because Jody has a teenage obsession with Ben. Jody “borrows” some clothes from the home. Jody fanaticizes about loosing her “V plates” to Ben. Jody dresses up in Tamara’s clothes. She uses Tamara’s computer to send an email, under Tamara’s name, to Ben: “I want to give you the biggest shagging of your life.” She cc’s Nicholas Hardiman. Tamara tells Ben she did not send the email. But the incident creates tension between them. When it looks like they’ll break up, Jody is distraught because she won’t see Ben anymore.

Casey and Jody spy on Tamara’s home. They see Nick coming to her home. Nick starts, or restarts, their affair. Beth suspects the affair, or an affair with someone. Casey and Jody find it hard to believe Tamara is with Nicholas—an old guy—after Ben. Tamara is not serious about Nick. “…after Ben, just want some good, clean fun…” Casey and Jody break into Tamara’s again. Jody sees on Tamara’s computer that Ben is looking for someone to watch his dog. She emails from Tamara’s email a recommendation for herself—she figures this will set her up to meet Ben.

Casey snaps a cell phone picture of Tamara and Nick. They send the picture to Beth. Andy is with Beth when the picture comes in. He confronts Tamara who tells him it is none of his business. Now that news is leaking out, Nick decides he wants to leave his wife for Tamara. Tamara wonders “what’ve I got myself into.” Nick tells Tamara he not only wants to change wives, but to change writing genres. He’s tired of being the same “brand.” Nick announces at a writer’s conference that he will be ending his popular crime novel series.

Ben contacts Jody about the dog. But Jody’s mother will not agree to have the dog at their home. Jody is now “frozen,” unsure how to get herself out of her predicament. Ben does not come to their scheduled meeting. Jody breaks into Tamara’s home, and Ben comes in on her. He has figured out she sent the emails. She tells Ben she loves him. He tells her, gently, to leave and not return. She is clearly underage, huge potential trouble for Ben.

Tamara doesn’t want Nick to leave his wife, but doesn’t tell him. She hopes “Beth makes him stay.” But Beth is ready for a divorce. She tells Glen about it, and that Stonefield would probably go on the market as a result. They notice Ben’s dog around again, chasing cattle. Beth has an angry confrontation with Nick about him leaving her. She chases their dog away after the argument.

The next morning, Nick is found dead next to a feeding trough. He has been killed by stampeding cows. The police investigate and label the death an accident. Casey is at a party, connecting with a boy her age whom she likes when an ambulance arrives at Jody’s house. Jody has accidently killed herself inhaling air freshener to get high.

Glen reflects on recent events. We find out Glen and Nick had an argument that evolved into a shoving match. Glen pushed Nick back into the feeding trough. Nick hit his head and was stunned. Glen heard the cows coming—chased by Ben’s dogs—and ran. Nick was in no position to run from them.

Casey apologizes to Jody’s mother (for not alerting anyone to Jody’s drug use), and to Beth Hardiman (for sending the picture of Nick and Tamara).

A year later, we find Andy has moved in with Tamara, and Tamara has had a baby. People say the child is like Andy, but Beth thinks he “has the look of Nicholas around the eyes.” Glen has received good reviews for his finally completed novel. But he looks concerned when he finds out Tamara’s upcoming novel will be about a writer’s retreat.

Tamara Drewe

Tamara Drewe

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