Birthday Girl (2001) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for sexuality and language
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Kassovitz, Kate Lynn Evans
Director: Jez Butterworth
Screenplay: Tom Butterworth, Jez Butterworth
Review published February 3, 2002
Whether you like her or not, Nicole Kidman is an actress making some of the more interesting films in the last few years. Starting with Eyes Wide Shut in 1999, she has made Oscar-worthy appearances in Moulin Rouge! and The Others, and now she shows us yet another side to her acting ability with Birthday Girl, probably a forgettable film when one looks at her career, yet a worthwhile film nonetheless.
Ben Chaplin (The Remains of the Day, Stage Beauty) stars as John, a lonely bank teller that decides to give in to his frustrations and seek a mail-order-bride from Russia. The woman of his dreams arrives in the form of Nadia (Kidman), who isn't speaking English and John wants her to go back to Russia but one thing is stopping him...she is a sex goddess in the sack. The marriage gets better every day until it's finally Nadia's birthday, and she invites some friends from the motherland over. Needless to say, they outstay their welcome, and the meek John ends up upsetting them to the oint where they decide to make his life a living hell.
Birthday Girl is a quirky yet likeable comedy that entertains despite the fact that it is derivative in theme of much better films like Something Wild or Out of Sight. Kidman has very few lines but still impresses since most of her dialogue is in Russian, and whether or not she does a good job, I am not expert enough to discern. Chaplin turns in a funny and sympathetic portrayal of the down-and-out loser, and in the end we do care about what happens to him enough to make it exciting.
Birthday Girl is recommended for fans of Kidman, lovers of offbeat comedies, and some of the more liberal of the art-house crowds. It's short but sweet, and while not altogether memorable, you will probably be entertained enough while it's on.
©2002 Vince Leo