Birthday Girl Movie Review
If any actress is at the peak of her career right now, it is Nicole Kidman. Though coming off a divorce with Tom Cruise, she starred in two popular movies in 2001, Moulin Rouge and The Others, both of which earned her Golden Globe nominations.
So, considering her success, it is not surprising that Miramax decides to send Birthday Girl wide, after it had been sitting on the shelf for a year. The question is: Is Birthday Girl going to be Kidman's next well-received hit, or is the studio just trying to make money with her rising star status.
Birthday Girl is an interesting movie, to say the least. It almost plays out as three different movies, all drastically different in theme. The first third of the film is a sexy comedy, where Chaplin has to deal with the fact that his mail-order bride from Russia only speaks Russian (but he also gets laid several times in the process). The script is witty and refreshing, and Chaplin pulls off some great lines. The second part of the film, however, is more of a suspense thriller than anything else. Nadia's "cousins" show up to celebrate her birthday, but then reveal their true motive: They want money, and they want Chaplin, a bank clerk, to get them that money. The third part of the film plays out as an unlikely romance, as Chaplin and Kidman attempt to elude police.
Birthday Girl's biggest problem is that it can be segmented into these three different parts. A movie needs to be consistent from beginning to end. It can contain all of the elements listed above, but has to blend them together into a seamless package. Birthday Girl is anything but. If it starts off as a comedy it needs to remain a comedy. It can have some tense moments but it still has to be funny. If the movie is going to be romantic, it needs to be so from the beginning.
Personally, Birthday Girl would have been better if it had tried to be a comedy. The comedy almost vanishes after the first third, and it is a real shame because the writer really had something going. The script is well done, driven by Chaplin's performance. He is a real good comic actor (much better than a hero in a thriller or the lover in a romance) and does a good job.
If you've seen Birthday Girl advertised as a thriller, be warned. It is hardly exciting. Yes, Chaplin gets involved in a fairly serious crime, but there isn't much in the way of twists and turns to keep the plot moving. Obviously it has become tired to make a plot too complicated for a third grader.
The romance really didn't do it for me, either. Chaplin and Kidman really don't click, which I guess is the point, but more than anything else, the storyline just doesn't lend itself to be a romance film. Kidman betrays Chaplin, yet for some reason he feels he needs to help her. What?
Kidman does a convincing job as the mysterious Nadia. Her Russian accent sounds pretty authentic (although I'm not an expert) and she actually speaks in Russian for about half of the movie. She also delivers her sexiest role since Eyes Wide Shut, although, unfortunately for me and other guys like me, she doesn't bare the front.
Birthday Girl is an okay movie, but lacks the components to make anything more worthy than a rental. The plot needed to piece itself together more before the movie was filmed, and most importantly, just needed to decide what genre it was going to fall into. The ending isn't very convincing, and it's a real shame because the first half hour is excellent.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.