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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.33%
Worth A Look: 37.21%
Pretty Bad: 6.98%
Total Crap: 6.98%

5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Birthday Girl
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Natasha Theobald

"What's that saying about being careful what you wish for?"
4 stars

If you are in the mood for a dark, sexy comedy about the nature of relationships, and you don't mind experimenting a little, this little movie is a seductive, disarming treat.

John is a bank employee of ten years with a staid, somewhat lonely existence. He is bored, and he is boring. He is ready for a change. So, John gets online and finds himself a website offering introductions to Russian women. He finds an interesting woman and has her fly to England to meet with him. As anyone who shops on the internet knows, things don't always arrive exactly as pictured. Unfortunately, some items are harder to return than others.

Nadia, it turns out, is a chain-smoker who knows little English, which puts a wrench in John's quest for a relationship based on good communication and good exercise. Nadia is not naive and chooses to find her way into John's life by finding her way into his bed. She becomes what he secretly desires, and, though he is a man of integrity, he chooses to trust and to fall.

Days pass, and their bond grows without benefit of conversation. They reach out to each other in small, subtle ways. Both seem happy. Both seem to be trying. But, one of them is a liar. The event of Nadia's birthday brings with it some strange visitors. It becomes increasingly clear to John that something is awry. Though he tries to ignore his misgivings, the other shoe must drop. The question becomes whether the most tenuous bond can be maintained when faced with chaos. John wanted a different life, and he certainly has it now.

Written by Tom Butterworth and director Jez Butterworth, the script is fast and fun. They people the world of the film with interesting characters, fleshed out with subtle layers and complexities. The movie is a little different, which means that some things are inevitably sort of quirky, but nothing ever moves beyond that into the cutesy, sickening quirkiness with which too many films get muddled. There are certain inevitabilities, I suppose, in how things happen, but that doesn't eliminate all spontaneity from the procedings, which is much to the credit of the actors. The film overall is sort of lusty in that it is unafraid to expose the baser urges of man, but, refreshingly, it doesn't necessarily pass judgement on the characters or their choices. Everybody likes to be tied up sometimes, right?

Ben Chaplin takes John from bumbling banker to brazen badass with utter sincerity and believability. The beginning of the film is the beginning of this shift in him. His first brave move is sending for Nadia. Everything that follows comes from the impetus of that decision. He is emboldened through that action to make futher leaps of faith. And, each time he stays true to himself, he gains power and strength to make more and bigger changes.

Nicole Kidman plays the sweet-seeming yet world-wise Nadia. She, too, is utterly believable in her role. And, the seamlessness of Nadia's transformations throughout the film is further proof that Kidman can do anything well. Not to mention that she seems to have learned a great deal of dialogue in Russian flawlessly.

Vincent Cassel and Mathieu Kassovitz continue the broad international appeal of the cast. Both French actors play Nadia's surprise houseguests. Having not been familiar with their previous work, I had no reason to believe they were not Russian. Like Kidman, they are able to act well in a foreign language without being obvious, almost like jazz singers who scat, portraying emotion purely through performance and sound. I hope to see more of both actors.

What sounded like contemporary Russian music was great in adding a little flavor. It was interesting to hear and aided the impression that John is out of his element. The music overall was interesting and added rather than detracted from the film.

If you like your comedy dark and your romance without the saccharine, this film is an entertaining alternative to the same old thing. Be like John. Reach for something new. You never know what will happen.

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originally posted: 08/20/02 09:37:40
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User Comments

6/06/05 rhatas refreshingly different role and performance from kidman - an oddly fascinating blend 4 stars
8/10/03 Koh lanta Vincent cassel and nicole kidman are so great 4 stars
4/20/03 Dillon Nice guy gets scammed by Russkies. Completely unpleasant. Ben, get new agents!! 1 stars
4/16/03 JL The movie wasn't that great, but Nicole Kidman is the bomb. 3 stars
2/15/03 Mitsaso Great!! 5 stars
4/26/02 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne (Movie lame and unconvincing) Hawaiian-born "Australian" plays Russian who speaks English but pretends she can't. 2 stars
3/20/02 Natalie Stonecipher English/Russian interactions that can make you sorry the cold war is "over". 2 stars
3/14/02 Roy Smith When people do things in movies that they would never do in real life the drama is ruined. 2 stars
3/13/02 Alan Smithee A watchable mess that is helped considerably by Nicole Kidman's sex appeal. 3 stars
2/28/02 Kim Carter Enjoyable movie! 4 stars
2/10/02 Suzz great turns by all the actors; finally a romantic comedy that is entertaining and funny 4 stars
2/07/02 the enemy of the WHORE Nicole Kidman is a WHORE 1 stars
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  01-Feb-2002 (R)


  08-Aug-2002 (M)

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