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Birthday Girl
Birthday Girl (Soundtrack)

Birthday Girl Birthday Girl Review

Directed By: Jez Butterworth, Mathieu Kassovitz.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Kassovitz, Valentina Cervi.

Synopsis: In Birthday Girl, Nicole Kidman plays a mail-order (e-mail, that is) Russian bride whose marriage to a staunch English banker (Ben Chaplin) has been arranged over the Internet. As it turns out, the arrangement is not as innocent and anonymous as it seems, and upon the bride's arrival in England, the banker finds himself in serious danger.

Perhaps you've heard that old idea of pitching a story to a Hollywood big-wig in 25 words or less. Here's Birthday Girl in a nutshell. Something Wild in England. Four Words, and I have 21 words left to say nasty things about other people I've worked with.

Alright, that's a little unfair. After all, Something Wild is a good little flick, and an English version of it plays out for some interesting twists. The problem is trying to keep the reality of the situation without going to far into farce or simply unbelievable plot developments. The director Jez Butterworth does an excellent job of taking the viewer along for the ride...however, when it comes down to it, some of the choices by John (Ben Chaplin) are not only stupid, they go against the make-up of his character.

The first half of the film though is the gem of the piece. John Buckingham has sent for a wife off of a web site. One day his Russian Bride, Nadia (Nicole Kidman), shows up and it turns out doesn't quite fit the profile John expected. Sure she smokes but the real obstacle is she doesn't speak English. As the days pass by we see the couple move from hesitation to something bordering on love (well, at least lust). Then, on Nadia's birthday come two old friends, Yuri (Vincent Cassel) and Alexei (Mathieu Kassovitz). When one of them becomes violent and threatens to destroy Nadia's looks John is forced into some actions one would not expect from such a quiet, simple man. He must rob his own bank...a surprisingly believable scenario although at first seems to raise an eyebrow. It is here though that the film begins to fall apart.

As 'twist' after 'twist' unravels, several steps taken by John seem out of character and foolish to have taken when other easier, more realistic ones would have been sufficient. However, they would not have built to the slightly 'false' ending that makes up Birthday Girl.

The script is the faltering point here. The last thirty minutes is just not completely buyable. We accept it in the theatre because we don't have any other choice but it quickly becomes so contrived and goes against sooooo much of John's character that it just doesn't work.

Despite the ending, there are some great things worth checking out here. Nicole Kidman, a woman who has really come into her own over the last year pulls in another interesting performance and Ben Chaplin brings a lot to a rather staid role. Also, while the script is weak in terms of the ending, it also should be noted that the first half of the film is much better, and some of the humor is sharp, mean, vindictive and usually funny. Too bad that it wimped out on the ending.

Final tally, 2 stars for the performances and a half for the first portion of the film giving us a final count of 2 and a half stars out of 5.

Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul

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Evil Ash

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