Birthday Girl
Actions speak. Nadia and John (Kidman and Chaplin) don't need words to fall in love...
dir Jez Butterworth
scr Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth
with Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Kassovitz, Stephen Mangan
release US 1.Feb.02; UK 12.Jul.02
01/UK 1h33

3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
someone's about to get a big surprise... This entertaining hybrid is a blending of two rather overused British genres: the breezy rom-com and the gritty crime comedy. That it works at all is miraculous and no doubt due to the skills of the Butterworth brothers (Mojo). John Buckingham (Chaplin) is a nebbish bank worker who's tired of his lonely life in the outer London suburbs, so he goes online and buys a Russian mail-order bride. But when Nadia (Kidman, yes really!) arrives, she speaks no English. They discover other ways of communicating (nudge nudge), then on Nadia's birthday two friends from the old country (Kassovitz and Cassel, yes the French stars!) arrive to spin the story off into unexpected directions.

This is one of those films in which everyone has a surprise up their sleeves, and the standard twisty story actually keeps our interest, because the Butterworths wisely keep focussed on the characters, not the goofy plot. But this too is odd, since Kidman, Cassel and Kassovitz are never remotely convincing as Russians! Their vaguely Slavic-sounding dialog is translated in subtitles, and fortunately what they say is very funny indeed. Their performances are so winning that we warm instantly to the characters, as pathetic or evil as they turn out to be. Chaplin is also good as the dull guy forced to find some inner resources. This makes the entire film terrific good fun to watch--charming, gently energetic ... and deeply mindless. It's also so nicely anti-Hollywood that you can't help but smile; its small British sensibilities are reflected in the stereotype-breaking characters, offbeat direction and a total lack of pretence. Which is a nice change for actors like this who tend to do Big Movies most of the time.
adult themes and situations, language, some violence cert 15tbc 22.Nov.01 lff

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall