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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
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by Scott Weinberg

"Proof positive that purchasing a bride online is a bad idea."
4 stars

It's nice to see a movie that doesn't do EXACTLY what you expect it to. While Birthday Girl isn't likely to rank among 2002's most memorable films, there's more than enough entertainment here to warrant a visit.

Imagine going online to order a mail-order bride from Russia, and you end up with Nicole Kidman. That's what happens to John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin) when his lonely routine becomes too much to bear. In a straightforward yet clever opening monologue, John explains his reasons for ordering a wife over the Internet, and the second that Nadia arrives at the airport we realize John's hit the jackpot.

But not so fast.

Nadia doesn't speak a lick of English, she invariably answers "Yes" to every query, she has a thing for vomiting (guess where this is headed) and is a rampant chain smoker. On the plus side, Nadia is not shy about sex and dazzles John with her horizontal skills, thereby temporarily clouding his logic circuits. This bizarre yet sweet romance hits a sudden roadblock during Nadia's birthday dinner - when two uninvited 'acquaintances' of the Russian lass show up at John's door.

To say much more would rob you a few screenplay corkscrews, but suffice to say that Birthday Girl has more on its agenda than merely "romantic comedy". That the film still proves entertaining while dramatically shifting genres is a testament to fledgling director Jez Butterworth (1977's Mojo). Working from a screenplay penned by himself and his brother Tom, Butterworth never tips his hand too early, and while you may predict some of the twists and turns, it's a safe bet you won't see them all coming.

Coming off a red-hot 2001 in which she illuminated both Moulin Rouge! and The Others, Nicole Kidman is once again in top form. She manages to infuse Nadia with equals parts innocence, sexiness and desperation while delivering a character that you will love despite your better judgment. Equally as strong is Ben Chaplin (The Truth about Cats and Dogs) as the intially bland 'everyman' Buckingham. Chaplin's got a tough role to play, in that he's supposed to be a boring chap, but he manages to bring a few unexpected streaks and creates a reluctant hero that you'll be rooting for almost immediately.

As Nadia's two unwelcome "friends", Vincent Cassel (the voice of Robin Hood in Shrek!) and Matthieu Kassovitz (Jakob the Liar) are fantastic. (Yes, that's two French actors playing Russian guys, but so what?) The pair manage to be subtly intimidating and disturbingly friendly at the same time.

The somwhat schizophrenic jolts that occur throughout Birthday Girl may prove off-putting to some moviegoers, but the two leads capably keep the film on track. While Birthday Girl does pose a few lapses in logic and a handful of plot holes, the overall result is a relatively unique and wholly entertaining flick, one that's infinitely better than what generally passes for "romantic comedy" these days.

It would be easy to dismiss Birthday Girl as a slight and forgettable affair, except for Kidman's excellent performance and a handful of truly satisfying touches that Butterworth has sprinkled throughout.

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originally posted: 02/01/02 15:19:40
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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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