John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin) is a lonely English loser whose sole means of sexual gratification consists of masturbating to bondage pornography. Since he apparently cannot get a date, he calls a Russian bride service and asks for a non-smoker who speaks English. He goes to the airport and standing there is Nadia (Nicole Kidman), who smokes and does not speak English.
The first deviation this film and director Jez Butterworth make from our universe is this: John calls the service and asks for another girl. Okay, if you're a lonely loser and Nicole Kidman shows up out of nowhere to marry you, do you send her back? I don't think so. Hell, Nadia gives John a hand job right after she gets to his apartment and he's still on the phone the next day asking for her replacement. Since when are "speaks English" and "non-smoker" more important characteristics than "gives hand jobs without prompting"? I think I may have scared a few people in the audience when I started yelling "SHE'S A KEEPER!" at the top of my lungs.
After that, things get completely whacked. Nadia's Russian friends Yuri (Vincent Cassel) and Alexei (Mathieu Kassovitz) show up and it turns out that Nadia isn't quite what she seems to be. What's Russian for "predictable"? Basically, John's new houseguests compel him to rob the bank he works in, which he does by walking in during business hours and heading right into the bank vault in full view of everyone. I guess this is supposed to be funny or weird or something, but, like the rest of the film, it's simply not believable.
There's a whole setup at the beginning of the film with John running through the woods. John, you see, is a runner. This little character detail is established so that at the end of the movie, John can run from the airport to the hotel and the audience won't think, "How'd this guy become a sprinting champion all of a sudden?" When "Birthday Girl" isn't building implausible character traits, it's throwing out implausible plot twists like pigeon feed. One wonders whether ordering a Russian mail-order bride wasn't something the filmmakers actually did, then justified it by making a film about it.
To spread the word about this Birthday Girl review on Twitter.To get instant updates of Mr. Cranky reviews, subscribe to our RSS feed.