Birthday Girl

Director
Jez Butterworth
Runtime
1 h 33 min
Release Date
6 September 2001
Genres
Comedy, Crime, Thriller
Overview
A shy bank clerk orders a Russian mail order bride, and finds his life turned upside down.
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  • Birthday Girl
    Movies from Film Forum, 02/07/02Birthday Girl, directed by Jez Butterworth, has been on Miramax's shelf for three years. It might have stayed there if it hadn't been for the recent Kidman-mania. Nicole Kidman just won a Golden Globe for Moulin Rouge and turned in another sensational performance in The Others, and the sudden surge of her popularity is a wave Miramax hopes to ride. Birthday Girl's Ben Chaplin plays a bank teller who, miserable with loneliness, decides to treat himself to an Internet-order bride (Kidman) from Russia. He gets more than he e-bargained for, when her two mischievous cousins pay a visit for her birthday.Sounds like a potentially wacky comedy, but the critics aren't laughing. The U.S. Catholic Conference's critic says the "initial quirkiness abruptly gives way to menace," and the film "becomes increasingly formulaic before ending on a falsely upbeat note that allows the protagonists to escape the consequences of their criminal actions."Phil Boatwright (The Movie Reporter) writes, "The film changes genres going from offbeat romantic comedy to a more serious thriller … [and] it doesn't succeed at either. Neither the execution of the story not the performances are very engaging. There's really not much to learn from this film and the emphasis on sensuality is not very conducive to spiritual growth." googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); And Peter T. Chattaway (The Vancouver Courier) says it is "full of implausible plot twists and undeveloped threads, and it is ultimately unworthy of Kidman's talents. The script … does give the cast a few good moments; Chaplin is especially good at conveying the anger and wounded pride beneath John's meek exterior. But the film as a whole is ultimately beneath them all. This is one birthday gift you may want to return to the store."Most mainstream critics would happily exchange this birthday present for either of Kidman's other recent hits. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-2'); }); if (gptClientWidth >= 992 && gptClientWidth <= 1000000) googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-3'); }); Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) says, "The movie's downfall is to substitute plot for personality. It doesn't really know or care about the characters, and uses them as markers for a series of preordained events. Since these events take us into darker places than we expect, and then pull us back out again with still more arbitrary plotting, we lose interest; these people do not seem plausible, and we feel toyed with. Even the funny moments feel like nothing more than—well, the filmmakers inventing funny moments." ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Blow Out the Candles, the Party's Over
    Movies Birthday Girl - R Best for: Mature adults What it's about: John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin), a lonely bank clerk bachelor in the suburbs of London, tries to find the woman of his dreams through a Russian mail-order Web site. Nadia (Nicole Kidman) turns out to be a chain-smoker who can't speak a word of English - nothing like the woman represented on the Web site. John tries to explain to Nadia that things won't work out between them. She responds by engaging in kinky sex with him, which obviously pleases him and persuades him to allow her to stay. On the night of Nadia's birthday, her Russian cousin Yuri ( Mathieu Kassovitz) abruptly appears at John's home with his friend Alexei (Vincent Cassel), and the two rude guests invite themselves to stay for a while. At first Yuri acts as a translator between John and Nadia, but John soon becomes uncomfortable with them and asks them to leave. The men then become violent, threatening to harm Nadia unless John agrees to rob his own bank. John, unable to communicate with Nadia, agrees, and the events that follow change John's life forever. The good: The story begins with an interesting premise, but since we never get to know Nadia, it's hard to really care when things begin to happen to her. Chaplin does a good job with what he's given, while Kidman once again creates a different look. She speaks Russian with such ease you would think it's her second language. Kidman has become the Meryl Streep of her generation, turning in amazing performances of, interestingly, mostly dark or disturbed women. Kassovitz and Cassel are convincing and creepy as the conniving Russian scam artists who prey on unsuspecting males. Nevertheless, the only good that comes out of this movie is a healthy warning for men to stay away from bondage porn movies and Web-ordered brides. The not-so-good: The main problem with this story turns out to be the very ingredient that sets up the plot. Namely, that a man would bring a woman into his home to become his bride (they are never married) when he can't communicate with her. The story tries to build a relationship between two characters whose only connection is their interest in kinky sex. We feel sorry for John as the tables start to turn on him, but we couldn't care less about Nadia. That's where the story fails. Casting a major star as an unlikable supporting character offsets any final impact from the story and ruins the movie. Although John is forced to rob his own bank for ransom money (which is understood and condoned), we never see remorse from him or any inclination to return the money, turn himself in or explain to the authorities what happened. The ending is a nice "Hollywood ending" but is unrealistic and irresponsible. Lastly, the film has an abundance of subtitles, so if you don't like to read, you won't like this movie. Offensive language and behavior: Lots of crude language and mild profanity (some in Russian and translated into English subtitles) as well as several "F"-words and a few profanities. We hear Nadia vomiting and the see the result. Several characters drink excessively. Sexual situations: Nadia pushes herself on John sexually (reaching into his pants, climbing on top of him). Sex is implied but not explicitly shown. Rear nudity is shown more than once. Some of the sex involves things Nadia learned from porn magazines and videotapes she discovers in John's home. Several scenes show all characters in their underwear. Violence: One of the houseguests pulls a knife on John and threatens Nadia. Several fistfights take place between characters. Nadia is slapped in the face, tied to a chair and pushed around by Alexei. John is tied to a hotel room toilet. Parental advisory: Needless to say, this isn't an appropriate movie for teenagers to see even if they are Kidman fans. Bottom line: Many adults may be offended by the harsh scenes of physical abuse, but most will be disappointed with the story, which never delivers. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('gpt-ad-1'); }); ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

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