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Birthday Girl

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Birthday Girl

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin
Director: Jez Butterworth
Rated: R
RunTime: 93 Minutes
Release Date: February 2002
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Kassovitz

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Da, John is a really lucky fellow. In Jez Butterworth's romantic thriller BIRTHDAY GIRL, John Buckingham has just received delivery of a Russian mail order bride named Nadia. She may not be able to communicate verbally in English, but she makes up for it with physical communication in bed. And against the wall, etc. Although John has some early hesitation and trepidation about her, she looks to be a real keeper.

A perfectly cast Ben Chaplin and Nicole Kidman play this young couple with a strange attraction to one another. Chaplin is great as a quiet everyman clerk who is trusted and respected by his peers at the bank where he has worked diligently for the last ten years. Other than a secret proclivity for bondage magazines, John is just as mild mannered and honest as he appears. With penetrating, playful eyes and a wicked yet innocent little smile, Kidman charms us just as much as Nadia does John.

The fun and games start on Nadia's birthday, when a couple of her "cousins," Yuri (Vincent Cassel) and Alexei (Mathieu Kassovitz), drop in from Russia to help her celebrate. The first problem that John has with these gregarious guys is that it's not clear when they plan on returning to Mother Russia. It won't be John's last.

BIRTHDAY GIRL is a fun little film that takes as many satisfyingly predictable turns as it does ones that come completely unexpected. Not until the end are you quite sure where the story is headed and how Nadia and John's turbulent romance will end up.

The movie's only disappointment comes when Nadia finally begins to speak. It is a real treat watching Kidman act without benefit of dialog, which she pulls off masterfully. It's too bad that she couldn't have been allowed to finish the movie mute.

BIRTHDAY GIRL runs 1:33. It is rated R for "sexuality and language" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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