|Writers:||Tom and Jez Butterworth|
|Miramax Films; R; 93 minutes|
|Cast:||Nicole Kidman, Ben Chaplin, Vincent Cassell|
After the shining achievements of Moulin Rouge and The Others, Nicole Kidman experiences a brownout of her star power. The Australian actress' wattage dims in comedy-thriller Birthday Girl.
An unmodulated storyline pits Ben Chaplin as John, a desperately lonely British man, against mail-order Russian bride Nadia (Nicole Kidman). He'd expected a non-smoking English speaker when Nadia strolls into the airport, lights up a cigarette, and promptly demonstrates her lack of English ability. John's ready to deport her back to Moscow when he discovers that Nadia's a ready participant in his sexual fetish fantasies. Tables turn yet again when Nadia's questionable cousins arrive for her birthday and refuse to leave.
Who's who and who wants what unfold in surprising ways; as anyone would have guessed, Nadia and her kin are not exactly the people they claimed to be. The Butterworth brothers (three team up as writer, director, and producer) pack in enough noirish turns to give Birthday Girl edge. The strategy works perhaps too well, for the final product is abrasive rather than sharp.