Feb 062002

Writer and director Jez Butterworth picked a good cast for a poorly written screenplay of his second film, “Birthday Girl.”

John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin), a nerdy and desperate bank teller living in a London suburb, orders an on-line Russian bride (Nicole Kidman) to fill his loneliness.

After meticulously selecting a non-smoking, English-speaking girl named Nadia, he discovers his tall, Slavic bride-to-be possesses none of these qualities. The only English word the chain-smoking Russian knows is “yes” – her response for everything.

Although a language barrier exists between John and Nadia, the foreign temptress wins his heart through the universal language of love.

Eventually, the plot develops from a romantic comedy into a dramatic thriller full of violence and betrayal. The new dilemma emerges when Nadia’s English-speaking cousin Yuri (Mathieu Kassovitz) and Russian friend Alexei (Vincent Cassel) make a surprise birthday visit and disrupt John and Nadia’s solidarity.

Although Kidman and Chaplin play convincing roles as a Russian and a mild-mannered British banker, the screenplay restricts their capabilities as actors, resulting in wasted talent. The abnormality of the characters and their circumstances makes it impossible to relate to them in any way.

The majority of the scenes are filmed with predictability – pointing out obvious outcomes like those apparent clues in a children’s movie. Overall, the movie lacks real depth or emotion and makes the audience wait for something spectacular to happen which it never really does.

Jez and Tom Butterworth worked together to write the script for “Birthday Girl,” making this film Jez’s second time directing after the release of his first film, “Mojo.” n

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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