Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5  
Birthday Girl (2002)

"Birthday Girl" is a bright British comedy about shy, methodical bank clerk John (Chaplin), who has a nice house, steady job and car, but no one to share it with.

Lonely in love, John contacts a Russian mail-order bride service via the internet, deciding to organise his lovelife as if he was refiling his investments.

The girl of his dreams will be able to cook and speak English, but instead Nadia (Kidman) arrives, a young Russian girl who can't cook and whose only word of English is "yes".

John prepares to send Nadia home but she has other ideas. Finding John's secret stash of porn, she begins to act out his fantasies. John is sent into dreamland but is not so impressed when Nadia's 'cousins', Alexei (Cassel) and Yura (Kassovitz), arrive to stay for the night - a case of two's company but four's a crowd.

"Birthday Girl" begins as a sparky comedy in which both Chaplin and Kidman demonstrate decent comic timing, but Jez Butterworth (who made the acclaimed debut "Mojo") deftly shifts the film into thriller territory around the halfway mark.

The doleful John is beautifully played by Ben Chaplin (in a role not vastly different to the one he plays in the TV comedy series Game On), and Kidman, so good in "The Others", shows a talent for the bizarre as the young Russian bride-to-be.

The real skill here, though, is shown by Jez and Tom Butterworth, who mix the age-old "opposites attract" storyline with something much more edgy, in a style reminiscent of Jonathan Demme's excellent 80s comedy thriller "Something Wild".

The plot runs away with itself towards the end but many will be carried along by Chaplin's and Kidman's infectious performances, and enjoy a deviant topical comedy which is funny from start to finish.

End Credits

Director: Jez Butterworth

Writer: Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Kassovitz, Kate Lynn Evans, Stephen Mangan, Sally Phillips, Ben Miller

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Length: 93 minutes

Cinema: 28 June 2002

Country: UK

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