Wednesday, December 23, 2009
What kind of guy mail-orders women from Russia? Could it be the same kind of guy that would fall hopelessly in love with a woman even though they could not effectively communicate? Would it be the kind of guy who has Sucker written across his forehead? The kind of guy that is easily targeted by scammers? If the answer is "yes," then the guys name is John (Ben Chaplin) and he works a dead-end job at the bank and goes through life following the same routine without really experiencing life.
John is surprised when he orders a companion from the internet and she shows up at the airport unable to understand English. What to do? John frantically calls the agency to explain that a mistake has been made, but ends up getting the run-around. The Russian claims that her name is Nadia (Nicole Kidman) but we later learn that she uses an alias. When her play cousin Yuri (Mathieu Kassovitz) shows up unannounced with his friend Alexei (Vincent Cassel), John's orderly world takes a drastic turn for the worse.
Birthday Girl takes an interesting journey full of plot twists and turns, some of which are predictable, others keep things interesting. John isn't dumb, but it seems his choices sometimes defy logic. His character is fairly well constructed, but his actions seem extreme within the circumstances created by the plot. The credibility factor requires quite of a bit of leeway. The sub-plots and minor twists were enough for me to enjoy the film in spite of lethargic dialogue and unlikely actions. The story could have been better but was decent enough.
Nicole Kidman is Nicole Kidman. This film is worth watching just to see her show some skin. But her acting abilities are on full display as she puts on a Russian accent that was convincing enough for my untrained ear. She speaks her lines in Russian, which was interesting to hear. She convinced me that she was Russian. The success of the story depends on a weird chemistry between Chaplin and Kidman that worked for me. Kassovitz is almost likable as one antogonist, while Cassel was legitimately scary. This film was not average because of the acting. That part was pretty good.
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