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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

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Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

Nicole Kidman's versatility is astonishing! After "Moulin Rouge" and "The Others," she embodies an entirely different persona in this breezy, off-beat love story about John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin) a lonely, uptight British bank teller in Hertfordshire who buys a Russian mail-order bride over the Internet. When lanky, dark-haired Nadia - that's the barely recognizable Kidman - appears at the airport, he's stunned - not by her beauty but by the fact that she's a smoker and speaks no English, despite his specific request for a non-smoking woman he could talk to. John tries to send her back but no one at "From Russia With Love" answers the phone. Meanwhile, Nadia discovers his stash of porno magazines and delights in igniting his kinky bondage fantasies. Mellowing to her sexual ministrations, John buys her a Russian/English dictionary and when she points to the word "birthday," he presents her with a cake. Just as she's ready to blow out the candles, two thug-like Russians (Mathieu Kassovitz, Vincent Cassel) appear at the door. Obviously, Nadia's been expecting them but their menacing presence delivers some tortuous thriller twists to the romantic relationship. Working with writer/director Jez Butterworth and cinematographer Oliver Stapleton, Nicole Kidman is captivating, holding the quirky, low-budget picture together. Ben Chaplin ("The Thin Red Line") cleverly conveys the hapless hero's frustrated repression, while Mathieu Kassovitz (actor in "Amelie" and director of "Hate" ) and Vincent Cassel ("The Messenger") cavort with their comical Russian characterizations and Stephen Warbeck's musical score reflects the many mood changes. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Birthday Girl" is a surprisingly seductive 7. It's a happy reason to celebrate.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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