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Birthday Girl (2001)

Before they share a future, they have to survive her past

Directed by:

Jez Butterworth

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 89 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom, United States

Ben Chaplin appears as John, a bank clerk from St Albans who lives a dull grey life. He looks to be a bit of a geek, lives alone, has no girlfriend, and even gets noncommittal employee evaluations at work – largely positive, but not positive enough to justify a promotion or a salary increase. However, John plans to change his luck – at least as far as his love life is concerned – by ordering a Russian mail-order bride via the Internet. When Nadia (Nicole Kidman) arrives, he is rather dismayed to find she doesn't speak English, but she is beautiful and seems pleasant so he soon starts to fall for her and a largely physical relationship develops.

Things begin to go wrong, however, when Nadia haltingly tells him that it is her birthday. The two of them are just sitting down to the birthday cake, when the doorbell rings announcing the arrival of Nadia's cousin and his friend to join the celebrations. They linger long after her birthday is over, outstaying their welcome, and John becomes concerned. And when he tries to throw them out, his safe simple life is turned upside down – suddenly he is up to his neck in Russian corruption and crime.

This is an entertaining comedy with much to recommend it. The performances from all four leads deserve a mention, especially that of Nicole Kidman who is surprisingly convincing as the Russian bride. The humour is understated and quirky, but more than capable of raising laughs. The plot concept is great, although it suffers somewhat in the execution – the first two-thirds of the movie are full of surprises whereas towards the end it becomes more predictable, and the conclusion can be seen coming a mile away. Although the setting and handling are very English, there is no doubt that many overseas audiences will enjoy this one too.

It's Got: Plenty of quirky humour.

It Needs: A lot less predictable ending.

DVD Extras A rewarding collection of extras with this FilmFour release, including a commentary. Extras: Commentary by director Jez Butterworth and actor Ben Chaplin, Cast and crew interviews, Behind the scenes, Trailer. Music Video: "Somethin’ Stupid" by Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

A Life Less Ordinary, Feeling Minnesota., Out of Sight

Summary

Both funny and thrilling, this film provides plenty of entertainment even if one isn’t really surprised how it turns out. A fine addition to the stable of modern quirky British comedies.

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