Birthday Girl
directed by Jez Butterworth
(Miramax, 2001)

Birthday Girl is an extraordinary film -- and yet more proof that Nicole Kidman is the greatest actress of our generation (at least until Jodie Foster makes a comeback). It's hard to characterize this particular film, though -- I wouldn't call it a dark comedy, as many do, because it is just far too dramatic, and it's hard to call it a love story just because that love story is such a strange one. However you categorize it, though, it is fantastic. It's not a film that will hit everyone's buttons, so I can understand some of the average reviews, but those who love Birthday Girl will absolutely adore it.

Of course, some will make light of the fact that you have Nicole Kidman and two French actors playing Russians in a movie filmed in Australia and set in England. That does sound rather kooky, but everyone in this film, no matter where they are from or who they are playing, is amazing.

I'm not going to say all that much about the plot because Birthday Girl is driven by some pretty serious turning points and surprises -- and I'm not going to spoil a single thing if I can help it. You basically start out with a young English fellow named John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin); he's a prisoner of his own boring life, and he decides to make the bold move of importing a mail-order bride from Russia. When Nadia (Nicole Kidman) arrives, she's not exactly what he expected -- there is, for instance, the rather bothersome fact that she does not speak a word of English (so much for truth in advertising). She is also, let us say, a little less than Kidman's normally glowing self early on. John makes a go of it, but he eventually decides to send Nadia back home. Nadia, however, has other plans, and I must say she makes quite a convincing case for keeping her around the house. She's quite amenable to John's somewhat extravagant, ahem, needs. Maybe things will work out after all, John thinks -- and then two friends of Nadia's arrive for a visit. John's life will never be the same -- not by a long shot. I have to question a few of John's actions later on, but the whole thing definitely makes for some great suspense and some crazy twists and turns.

As for the DVD, it comes without a commentary, unfortunately, but it does feature a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film along with a music video featuring Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman.

Birthday Girl isn't really a film for those who like action and more action, or those who want to see everything laid out in a completely straightforward manner. This film is really about people and emotions and the uncanny ability for love to blossom in even the harshest of conditions. Even if you don't like the story, you can't help but be impressed by the performances, especially that of Kidman, who is more than convincing as a Russian. There is no role this amazing actress cannot play perfectly.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 2 July 2005

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