Urban Cinefile
"He has dinner parties with everybody, we go dancing together and he plays us a B movie every week of the shoot. "  -Samuel L. Jackson on working with Quentin Tarantino
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday February 1, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Love sick and forlorn young bachelor banker John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin) resorts to mail ordering a bride via the internet on the From Russia With Love website, and when Nadia (Nicole Kidman) arrives, heís shocked to learn she doesnít speak a word of English. But thatís the least of the surprises in store for John, as his would-be bride tries every trick to be kept in his life Ė including sex games she thinks he likes. And then another big surprise: her Ďcousinsí (Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Kassovitz) from Russia turn up, and force him to rob the bank to save Nadiaís life.†

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If the script had been developed to its full potential by some really good ideas that captured our imagination and retained credibility, Birthday Girl would have been an edgy and often darkly comic romantic thriller. But it never gets past Movie of the Week level, with the basic premise completely fuddled up and unconvincingly laid out. It takes a truly gullible audience to swallow any of it: two rather silly conmen and a young woman with little going for her are simply not credible as international sting merchants, for a start. Nor can we believe the perfunctory bank robbery. Kidman is good enough, accent and all, and Ben Chaplin is terrific as the shy Englishman, but the script and direction donít work. Our initial expectations of a romantic comedy are suspended while the film veers off on a vaguely dramatic crime thriller route, before landing back in romantic territory, after a wishy washy middle. Birthday Girl lacks that special day sparkle and doesnít take the cake.†

Review by Louise Keller;
As everyone knows, birthday gifts are a matter of taste, and although Andrew may be disappointed, not so I. The gift here is as delicious as its wrapping, and I really enjoyed being whisked away into another reality, and in such good company. Elevated by the performances of a top cast, Birthday Girl is a darkly comic, quirky love story cum thriller that never stops pulling rabbits out of hat. Letís start with Ben Chaplinís timid St Albans bank clerk, who takes the unprecedented giant step to log-on for a Russian wife. Chaplin is splendid - at first protesting with his head, then relenting with physical desire and finally spiralling totally out of control with his English reserve crumpled and dismantled. Through every minute of this adventure of the heart, we are with him Ė from his initial disappointment through his sexual euphoria to his horror when he sees his calm, orderly life destroyed before his eyes. Nicole Kidmanís exotic Nadia is a marvellous mix of playing the sucker like a dirty rotten scoundrel and displaying a gypsy-like charm that is contagious. Her Russian accent (and indeed the Russian language we hear) sounds superb, as is that of distinctive French actor/directors Vincent Cassel and Mathieu Kassovitz, whose casting as uninvited Russian visitors is a gift. They sound effortlessly fluent and it would be fascinating to know whether it is as good as it sounds. As Johnís options change, we sway to and fro with the twists in the plot, never sure where the story is leading us. The storyís rather brittle edge reveals itself to show a very sweet heart, which is probably reason enough for its instant appeal. Fresh, energetic and darkly amusing, The Birthday Girl surprises, entertains and jolts us far from our everyday existence into a rocket ride of the heart.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0



CAST: Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Kassovitz, Kate Evans, Stephen Mangan

PRODUCER: Eric Abraham, Steve Butterworth, Diana Phillips

DIRECTOR: Jez Butterworth

SCRIPT: Jez Butterworth, Tom Butterworth


EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen ACE

MUSIC: Stephen Warbeck

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes



© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020