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Birthday Girl
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Reviews & Ratings for
Birthday Girl More at IMDbPro »

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73 out of 81 people found the following review useful:

offbeat, underplayed drama

Author: Roland E. Zwick (magneteach@aol.com) from United States
21 December 2002

Roughly one part crime drama to two parts offbeat love story, `Birthday Girl' is a nifty little British film that gives Nicole Kidman a chance to strut her stuff as an actress. Here she gets to play a Russian `mail order bride' (though, of course, in the modern world she is actually ordered off the internet) who's come to England to start a new life with John, a mild-mannered banker unsuccessful in the ways of love. John is one of those bland, utterly undistinguished `good guys' who everyone seems to like but no one seems to notice. Even his boss at the bank gives him one of those noncommittal job evaluations (saying what a swell guy he is and what a great way he has with people) used to fob people off when they are not good enough to merit a raise or a more prestigious position in the corporation. Forced to go the unconventional route in finding himself a wife, John hooks up with the lovely but inscrutable Nadia, a Russian woman who, John is appalled to learn, does not understand a word of English. Then just as John and Nadia seem to be forming a close relationship (literally bonding over bondage), complications arise when two of Nadia's bizarre `friends' from Russia suddenly arrive on the scene.

To reveal more of the plot would be unfair to both the viewer and the makers of this film, since much of the movie's intrigue arises from the frequent turnabouts in the plot itself. Although there is always the threat of violence hammering at the film's edges, writers Tom and Jez Butterworth (the latter serving as the film's director as well), manage to keep the film fairly havoc free while they focus on the developing relationship between the two main characters. Kidman, who speaks nary a word of English in the first half of the film (and only with a heavy accent thereafter), does a beautiful job conveying both the toughness and the vulnerability inherent in this woman. Though innately compassionate, Nadia has had to learn how to survive in a brutal world - even if that means having to exploit naïve, good-natured shmucks like John. As John, Ben Chaplin conveys just the right mixture of shyness, befuddlement and ultimate self-assuredness to make us root for the character. Because of his Everyman characteristics, we want to see John triumph in the end.

`Birthday Girl' doesn't try to push the envelope by indulging in elaborate action scenes or patently theatrical heroics. Its events seem to unravel in a spontaneous, naturalistic manner, which helps the film to remain relatively true to life most of the time. It tells an unusual story, one filled with wry humor, understated suspense and a compassionate recognition of human frailty. Well written and well acted, `Birthday Girl' is an unheralded film that deserves to be seen.

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49 out of 61 people found the following review useful:

truly funny, dramatic and awakening all at once

10/10
Author: Roman Kossarev (kossarev@hytti.uku.fi) from Kuopio, Finland
1 August 2002

This movie really woke me up, like it wakes up the main male character of this bravely different movie from his life slumber.

This guy John (Ben Chaplin) leads his mediocre safe life of a bank teller in a small provincial English town, until the stunningly gorgeous, wild, girl-to-die-for Nadia (Nicole Kidman), ordered by email from Russia, enters his life to become his beloved wife, by Johns plan. However a glitch turns up - Nadia does not speak a word of Johns language. Although calm and emotionless on the outside, John becomes so interested in beautiful Nadia that instead of using the full refund policy of the matching service, he buys her a dictionary to start the communication process.

What happens henceforth in the plot really shakes poor John from his slumber of a decently-paid safe-feeling clerk into a decision-making decently thinking action figure, giving the viewer a subliminal message "you would have probably acted likewise".

Kidman, Cassel & Kassovitz make a great team acting Russians and they are almost indistinguishable from the real thing, "almost" only due to the slight accent present in their Russian dialogues, however slight enough to amaze a native Russian by the hard work done to get the words sound right. Nicole Kidman proves her talent once again by playing a character quite different from the previous roles, at least from the cultural background.

The pace of the film is fast and captivating, and you certainly are not ready to quit watching when the end titles appear, you rather feel that you're in the middle of the plot, and are left with a desire to see the sequel as soon as it comes out.

My advice is to go out and get this film immediately and watch it and enjoy. To sum it up, it has an unusual plot, great acting, and ideas below the surface. Like the idea of the "rude awakening" from the artificial safe routine life of a wheel in a Society's machine, the life which members of the Fight Club were so keen to quit and the machine of which Pink Floyd sings ("Welcome to the machine!"). I bet that in the end, John was rather off with Sophia on their way to the unknown than not having met her at all.

Thank you, writers, for the great story, and everyone else for this great movie! Please make a sequel! And you can stage it whereever and name the location whatever, because the authenticity of the place is irrelevant to the 99.9999 percent of the potential viewers, I am sure of it.

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40 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

An Enjoyable Movie with Lots of Surprises

8/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4 July 2003

John (Ben Chaplin) is a lonely bank clerk who lives in a small town not far from London. Though the Internet, he contacts a Russian agency of brides. He selects Sophia (Nicole Kidman – the guy could be lonely and shy, but certainly has a good taste, doesn't he?) and when they met each other, he realizes that she does not speak English. The communication between each other is basically limited by sex (again, imagine, what a terrible situation for the guy, just have some kinky sex with Nicole Kidman!). On her birthday, two Russian friends of her visit them. Then, lots of surprises will happen. I liked this movie: first, it is almost impossible to be 'labeled'. Is it a black comedy, an action, a thriller movie? I believe all the choices are correct. Nicole Kidman is gorgeous as usual, and I am very curious about her Russian: is she speaking Russian in a correct accent indeed, or just faking? Anyway, I found it an enjoyable movie. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "A Isca Perfeita" ("The Perfect Bait")

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27 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Twists Come Early On In This Drama

8/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
29 April 2006

For a film that got little publicity, and few people have heard about, this was pretty good. It's another one of these modern-day British crime films that are quirky ("Snatch," "Sexy Beast," etc.). It's not wild like "Snatch" but it's interesting and it has some rough characters.

It also has a corny and somewhat predictable ending but early in the show - not late - has some neat twists to make it very interesting for the first-time viewer. Basically, it's about a low-key British male who sends away for a Russian "mail order bride" who winds up, with the aid of two Russian male friends, providing a couple of big surprises.

Ben Chapin and Nicole Kidman co-star, and are very good as are Vincent Cassel and Matthieu Kassovitz as Kidman's Russian cohorts. This is a different kind of film and well-acted. Kidman once again proves she's far more than just a beautiful face.

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18 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Underrated romantic comedy

7/10
Author: Andy-Denotti from Netherlands
9 June 2006

This is a good example a film that in spite of the low rating is more than worth watching. The story is engaging and it doesn't take long before the chemistry between Nicole Kidman and Ben Chaplin grabs your attention. The acting is first class and the characters are represented well. Sometimes it feels like the director couldn't decide himself between drama and romantic comedy. Ben Chiller's portrayal of the law abiding and shy Englishman with porn S.M. magazines hidden in the bedroom creates plenty of moments for laughs! As does the look in Nicole Kidman's eyes when she is offering John his first taste of intimacy in a long time... Other times the actors and especially Nicole Kidman give this comedy quite expertly a dramatic slant.

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14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

A gem which everyone missed

10/10
Author: celtic43 from Bristol, UK
25 August 2002

The critics didn't like this film. It bombed in the States and as a result received only a limited showing in Britain. Which was a great shame, because it represents British rather than American humour and should have been shown in Britain first.

Nicole Kidman looks stunning and is a totally convincing Russian. Ben Chaplin is the Dustin Hoffman character from 'The Graduate', and 'Birthday Girl' has at least 4 scenes which remind the viewer of that 1960s classic (despite being a totally different story!).

Sure it changes tack a number of times from comedy to black comedy to thriller to adventure - but it's memorable, moving and a weclome breath of fresh air compared to the average mega-budget blockbuster.

See it with an open mind!

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15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

A good premise, but the overall film is just so-so...

6/10
Author: MovieAddict2014 from UK
22 August 2005

John (Ben Chaplin) is a hapless bachelor in St. Albans, looking for love in all the wrong places. So he goes online and orders a Russian mail-order bride. She arrives in the form of Nicole Kidman. Although her background is questionable and her English is fragmented, she's great in bed, so he has no complaints.

However when her "cousins" appear at his door a whole new world of deception and violence opens up for John, pulling him deeper and deeper under.

The premise for the film is fairly good, but the overall execution is just so-so. Nicole Kidman gives a really good performance (worthy of a better film) but Ben Chaplin is just OK. He slaps her around a bit, which is about as daring as his character manages to be. Anyone could play the role, so he's kind of stuck in a rut.

The movie is grungy, dark and feels independent - it's hard to imagine Hollywood royalty Nicole Kidman signing onto it, but she is really the reason this film remains interesting and engaging. Without her, I don't think I would have bothered to sit through all of it.

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16 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Likeable performances in story with nowhere to go

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
1 February 2002

Birthday Girl has a not too bad premise- good old English chum decides out of lonliness and maybe something else to order a mail order bride from Russia. It turns out, his order is not quite what he wanted, but she (Nicole Kidman) seems like a nice enough wife, until not what was planned happens in a series of events getting the english chum and his russian bride on the run. Sometimes amusing, but it is not good enough as a movie since it can never really get into its characters and seems to float for part of the 2nd act and 3rd act. Kidman is still sexy though. C+

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A Cute Pleasure

7/10
Author: tabuno from utah
5 September 2002

The trailer for this movie didn't do the movie justice. And while the movie didn't know what it really wanted to get across, the first half of the movie being a light, romance comedy and the second have a more serious, romantic drama, the overall impact was much better than I thought it would be. This movie was more of a date movie, but the trailer made it into more of a suspense thriller which it never really turned out to be. Kidman, being one of my favorites, of course I'm biased, but this movie proved to be a light, sensitive, if somewhat quirky movie that deserved better. Three out of four stars. 9/5/02.

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15 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Was this a comedy, thriller, romance or what?

Author: emuir-1 from United States
16 January 2006

This film would have played better as a romantic comedy. Instead it was neither one thing nor another. All the performances were good, but somehow it missed the mark. More like a satire of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. The plot was too silly for a thriller, the characters were caricatures and the uptight bank clerk would have gone to the police immediately they demanded cash. As a comedy, they could have got away with a preposterous plot and the equally preposterous ending, but as a thriller, it simply fell flat.

Nicole Kidman can successfully play the sort of girl who could be a real head turner if she didn't dress like trash, combed her hair, got washed, and stopped lighting one cigarette from another. The scenes of her puffing away on a cigarette casually hanging from the side of her mouth were hilarious. She probably substituted flea market perfume for deodorant. The two Russian accomplices were also good, and Ben Chaplin was suitably uptight as the "victim". At first I thought he was too handsome to get a mail order bride, but to have made him a geek would have been too predictable. There are many handsome and successful men who just seem to strike out with the ladies.

Overall, I would rate this OK if you have absolutely nothing better to do.

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