s next novel, but puts more effort into ignoring Beth so he can hop away for his latest extramarital tryst.

As any author of fiction will tell you, conflict is what drives any story, and there's plenty to be found at this place. It's the kind of setting that, although visually idyllic, harbors ill will among its denizens. It's the kind of place where writers' block and intestinal blockage can be one and the same. It's also the kind of spot that's supposed to have no distractions, so 10 pages can be banged out easily in a day.

Enter a distraction with serious curves, when Tamara returns to town after a long absence. Now a print journalist "? not to mention now scorching-hot "? she's back to check on her childhood home that's to be sold, once kindly, hunky handyman Andy (Luke Evans, "Robin Hood") gets through with repairs.

He and Tamara once had a brief fling as youngsters, and that was when her nose resembled Karl Malden's. Will the fires in their hearts be stoked again? Certainly! She just has to sleep her way through a few more men first.

Although her character is too easy to be lovable, Arterton is enchanting in her role, and seemingly at ease among actors with far more experience. She proves herself an able light comedian. In terms of laughs, however, the film is stolen by Jessica Barden as a foul-mouthed teenager so bored by countryside life that she relishes effing up everyone else's.

"Tamara Drewe" is as frothy as root beer and nearly as tasty. It may not land the lasting, wicked punch of Frears' "Dangerous Liaisons" or "Dirty Pretty Things," but the script "? minus a maddeningly in-a-bow conclusion "? is up to snuff, what with lines like, "If it were possible to have an orgasm from food, these mince pies would do it." "?Rod Lott

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