Birthday Girl (2001)

JEZ BUTTERWORTH

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBB

United Kingdom/USA, 2001.  FilmFour, HAL Films, Mirage Enterprises, Miramax, Portobello Pictures.  Screenplay by , Jez Butterworth.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

is marvelous in this odd little tale about a straight-laced bank employee () who sends out for a Russian mail-order bride and gets a lot more than he bargained for. Initially deciding to return the lady home when it turns out that she speaks not a word of English, Chaplin eventually becomes enamoured of her when she enters his bedroom one night and speaks the one language that all humans have in common. Trouble arises when her cousin () and his friend () show up, threatening to harm Kidman if Chaplin doesn’t rob his bank’s vault and give them money. Even more trouble is in store when it turns out that the damsel in distress isn’t quite as helpless as she may seem. Kidman does a phenomenal job with the role, impressively speaking Russian for three-quarters of her onscreen time, but also gives much intellectual gravity to a plot that is basically a male sexual fantasy gone amok. On the other hand, her being cast in the role gives more than just a few obvious surprises away (gee, I wonder if she’s pretending not to know any English). Chaplin does an able job with the role but his character is such a tight-ass that you’ll find yourself wishing something really bad would happen to him.

Toronto International Film Festival:  2001

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