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Among Giants

Review by Elias Savada
Posted 9 April 1999

  Directed by Sam Miller.

Starring Pete Postlethwaite, Rachel Griffiths,
and James Thornton.

Written by Simon Beaufoy.

As much as I was hoping this new social romantic import would scale new heights and electrify your senses, Among Giants’ blah story of love among the high tension wires instead is a limp disappointment of voltages dashed. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy wrote this under-developed story, his first script, before he penned the Oscar-nominated hit Brit blockbuster The Full Monty, another Sheffield-based, working-class paean that wowed audiences worldwide. Regrettably, lightning doesn’t strike twice for this wordsmith, even if the film includes two of my favorite actors (Pete Postlethwaite and Aussie Rachel Griffiths) unabashedly prancing around in their full frontal monties.

Along the Yorkshire roads ventures Gerry, a lonely, backpacking mountain climber from Down Under who’s been traveling the world’s highways for "as long as a piece of string" until she whimsically decides to stop awhile amongst the beer-guzzling locals. These cast-offs include a handful of out-of-work blokes who, under Ray’s foremanship, find off-the-books summer work rust-proofing and painting 15 miles worth of electrical towers. Smelling an opportunity to scale new heights, breath more outdoor air, and check out the generally mental-deficient male populace along the roadside, Gerry drops anchor, planting a pup tent at the edge of her new "office." Aside from picking the middle-aged, divorced Ray, there’s his best bud Steve (James Thornton), a young lothario with a love van/sex palace on wheels that probably once beloved to Eddie Murphy in his hornier days. The relationships among the leads are never fully formed, as the characters are only half-heartedly committed to it, and the threesome strains from not knowing which way it’s heading. Steve moves out of the apartment he shares with Ray probably just as much because of his disgust with Ray’s newly discovered raison-d’Ítre as he is with his own inability to lure the young lass to his bed. The fact that 20-something Gerry is sleeping with someone who is at least as old as her father doesn’t seem to factor into the equation, other than pushing his cynical ex-wife, Lyn (Sharon Bower), to poo-poo what she thinks is a doomed partnership.

The film’s problems are just as much the fault of debut director Sam Miller’s inability to enthuse the characters with any larger-than-life significance for today’s demanding audiences (including yours truly), as well as director of photography Witold Stok’s annoyingly dizzy, hand-held or helicopter shots whirling about lovers Ray (Postlethwaite) and Gerry (Griffiths) embracing on too many occasions. Even if the scenery is beautiful and effectively lit, whether scaling the Sheffield cliffs or climbing the electrical towers that frame the feature, the film doesn’t have enough emotional glue to stick together. To Miller’s benefit, he does provide some buoyant moments and some excellent soundtrack titles (particularly a rendering of "Stand By Me" and "Old Paint" by the jovial cowboy kings of the pylons) amid the drudgery of their days aloft.

Postlethwaite, nominated for an Academy Award for his strong portrayal of Giuseppe Conlon in In the Name of the Father, and memorable in nearly all his films (including Brassed Off, The Usual Suspects, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Amistad), tries to fill tall boots, but unfortunately falls victim to a weak script and poor direction. Similarly, Rachel Griffiths, coming off her strong performance in Hilary and Jackie, suffers the same fate. The smaller roles that fill up the road crew are quirky, almost nameless, and nearly invisible, even though they share a good percentage of screen time. Some of their dialect was undecipherable as well.

Among Giants poses as a passionate trapeze act, but instead merely comes off as a tired, and forgettable, countryside travelogue.

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