Retro Review: Birthday Girl

John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin) is an uptight British banker who is looking to complete his stable and secluded Western life.

Buckingham says that since he works so much and lives alone that it’s hard to meet that special someone. John turns to the internet and finds a website where he can bring a woman to him.

Aside from his house having an ant problem, John decides this might be the way to make his life complete.

John goes to the airport to meet his future wife, Nadia (Nicole Kidman).

Nadia doesn’t speak English, seems to be sick and not at all what John wanted. He calls the service back and leaves a message that he is upset and wants to return her.

(Does this guy know she isn’t a stereo?)

The communication breakdown, Nadia’s seduction of John, Nadia’s discovery of John’s secret desire and their romantic bliss is a pure and utter delight to watch.

The film’s delightful beginning turns very different as Nadia’s secret is unveiled. This transformation in the film is bewildering and confusing but also interesting.

I really liked Kidman once again even though this film was made over 2 years ago. It is unlike anything she has played previously and she seems uninhibited about things that she does.

Even with her heavy black eye-shadow and bleak hair, she shines through as Nadia. This performance is critical so that we to can see why Chaplin’s John would still be drawn to her after some of the events during the revelation of her secrets.

I also liked Chaplin as the uptight straight man to Kidman’s wild Nadia. His performance is priceless as he reacts to all the problems Nadia throws at him. Chaplin does seem to lose some of that charm after the secret which is a shame.

This film tries to be a drama but also a comedy. When it was being written I wonder if the screenwriter wasn’t sure how to handle it later on in the plot. I liked the film more as a comedy than a drama because we lose a lot of the connection to Nadia and John when it changes.

I was hoping when seeing the trailers and watching the beginning of the film that this film would be a lot like the 1986 comedy “Something Wild” starring Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels.

In that film you have two very similar characters to John and Nadia but the film never loses its comedic charm. I would have loved to have seen that film remade with these two.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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