*** Official "BIRTHDAY GIRL" Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Scott Weinberg, Jan 31, 2002.

  1. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    I had heard both good and bad things about Nicole Kidman's latest, so it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch Birthday Girl. Surprise! This is an entertaining and generally quite engrossing little movie. It defies any one genre, but I'd classify it as a romantic comedy (with liberal splashes of DARK comedy) mixed with a mild Hitchcockian thriller (bland yet affable everyman gets embroiled in criminal scenarios before 'evolving' into a reluctant hero).
    Birthday Girl is not even almost the action flick that the publicity would lead you to believe.
    Kidman is heartbreaking and sweet as a Russian mail-order bride who moves in with a drab drone of an Englishman (as played by Ben Chaplin). Things go wildly askew when two surprise visitors pop in...from Russia. Plotwise, that's all you're getting from me, as this one takes a few unforeseen left turns before it's all over.
    Looking forward to seeing what you guys thought of this one. Birthday Girl isn't likely to make my Top Ten of 2002 list, but I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it. 4 out of 5 stars easily.
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for Birthday Girl. Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.
    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!
    If you need to discuss those type of issues, please post your discussion comments in the Official Discussion Thread for this film which can be found at this link.
    Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Mark Pfeiffer

    Mark Pfeiffer Screenwriter

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    Put me in the boat with those not that impressed with it. Birthday Girl is watchable, which is helped by its lean running time, but nothing of much interest ever happens. The biggest problem is with Ben Chaplin's character, who doesn't change at all in the film. Birthday Girl isn't boring, but it isn't very compelling either. It's average.
    (My full review is here)
     
  4. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Great review, Mark! Here be mine:
    Birthday Girl - 4 stars (out of 5)
    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.
    ---
    Or maybe my deep and powerful affection for the splendiferous Ms. Kidman has clouded my judgment. [​IMG]
     
  5. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    An average film, but peppered with the presence of Nicole Kidman pushes it into the "liked it" category, albeit just barely.

    True, there are editing gaps in this film w/r/t character development, but they didn't cut out that "fine line between love and hate" subtext, so it was forgivable.

    There are few chuckles, and somehow it even makes tussling with a woman *almost* acceptable. There was something simmering just under the surface, but it never did come up for breath.

    But, still an overall enjoyable film viewing experience.

    I give it 2.5 stars, or a grade of B-.
     

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